Injury-hit Melbourne Victory have been eliminated from the Asian Champions League after a scoreless draw with Jeonbuk Motors in South Korea.
Victory were patched-up to start their final group match on Tuesday, and finished banged up abroad with more injury concerns.
Melbourne lost two players, Jesse Makarounas and Scott Galloway, before halftime at Jeonju World Cup Stadium.
And defender Adrian Leijer was forced from the field in the second half as goal difference tipped the Victory out of the ACL.
Melbourne finished third in their group, pipped for second-place by Jeonbuk, who advanced because they scored one more goal than them in the six group games.
The Victory were gallant against the K-League powerhouse – sturdy in defence but crafting few clear-cut scoring chances, though controversially denied a stoppage-time penalty.
Melbourne’s injury woes hit hard: Makarounas limped off in the 36th minute after injuring his right hip and Galloway followed just three minutes later with what appeared a hamstring complaint.
And Leijer departed in the 66th minute with right foot injury, leaving Melbourne coach Kevin Muscat without any tactical substitutions.
The injuries compounded the absences of frontliners including suspended captain Mark Milligan, in-form striker James Troisi and evergreen defender Pablo Contreras.
Jeonbuk, who won the lucrative Asian club competition in 2006, were the more threatening and took the attacking impetus after Victory opened strongly.
Melbourne had the better of the initial 15 minutes before the home side rallied and created a succession of first-half scoring opportunities but were unable to breakthrough Victory’s resolute defence.
Against the tide, Melbourne orchestrated a gilt-edged chance in the 41st minute when James Jeggo, finding rare space in attack, struck a free header over the cross bar.
The visitors also were also unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the 92nd minute when substitute Costa Barbarouses was brought down in the box after tangling with Jeonbuk’s Jae-Moung Lee, who appeared to drag down the Melbourne attacker.