A refereeing blunder unjustly ended Melbourne Victory’s Asian Champions League campaign, coach Kevin Muscat says.
The Victory were tipped out of the ACL after a scoreless draw with Jeonbuk Motors in South Korea on Tuesday night, failing to advance because of goal difference.
Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande topped the group and Jeonbuk took second spot to progress because they scored one more goal than the third-placed Victory in their six group games.
Melbourne were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty in the 92nd minute when Kosta Barbarouses was brought down in the box by Jeonbuk defender Jae-Moung Lee.
The Korean appeared to pull Barbarouses down but the referee didn’t award a penalty which would have offered the Victory a chance of a stoppage-time winner to send them through the group stage.
“That was definitely a penalty,” Muscat said.
“The decision didn’t go our way but I think it was obvious and clear to everybody that it was a certain penalty.
“But unfortunately that is how it goes.”
Melbourne’s cause was hampered by three injuries which have implications for their A-League semi-final against Brisbane Roar on Sunday.
Jesse Makarounas (hip) and Scott Galloway (hamstring) were forced from the field within three minutes of each other before halftime at Jeonju World Cup Stadium and defender Adrian Leijer (foot) limped off in the second half.
Muscat was pleased with Victory’s resilience but said the pain of being knocked out of the tournament was raw.
“When we have time to reflect, we’ll be immensely proud of what we have achieved in our performances,” Muscat said.
“When the group was drawn, no-one gave us a chance to qualify.
“We have gained a lot of respect from the way we have played football and the way we have gone about trying to win football games.
“But at this point in time, it’s obviously just emotional, the disappointment is pretty fresh.”