Melbourne Victory were edged out by Boca Juniors in a spiteful friendly at Etihad Stadium on Friday as Marcelo Canete scored the only goal of the match for the Argentinian giants.
Canete, 20, was a standout in midfield and beat two players after capitalising on an error by Victory defender Rodrigo Vargas to score in the 42nd minute.
The visitors, cheered on by an enthusiastic band of supporters amid a disappointing crowd of 13,000, were upset with a string of nasty tackles by the Australian side and at times reacted through foul means of their own.
Victory gave new goalkeeper Michael Petkovic a run-out in the second half as both clubs rolled through their substitutes, although the lack of creativity in the absence of injured attacking pair Carlos Hernandez and Archie Thompson could be a cause for concern for coach Ernie Merrick three weeks out from their first A-League fixture - a Grand Final rematch with Sydney FC.
Merrick said he was pleased with the performance against a high calibre of opposition and that the match gave his side an ideal test at this stage of preparations.
"I was very happy with having a game like that," Merrick told Victory's website. "I thought in the first half it was a bit like a pre-season game and the boys were a little bit nervous. But we still created a chance with Mate Dugandzic and Marvin Angulo. But they took their goal well. But in the second half we started to get into a rhythm, some good passages of play from both teams, (there was) a lot of feeling in the game and we got out of it exactly what we wanted.
"We were particularly happy with the intensity in the second half. This is the best way to prepare for the league so we talked about it at half-time, the boys stepped up, we started holding the ball in the middle (and) getting good service forward."
While Hernandez is due back from injury ahead of the A-League season, Merrick admitted he would like to sign a replacement for Thompson, who isn't due back until late in 2010.
"I think we need a striker in our team but I was pretty happy creating four chances and we didn't put any of them away," said Merrick "But it was good to see us create those. It's a thing that we're well aware of ... it would be ideal to have another striker there's no doubt about it."