Melbourne Victory are into the round of 16 at the Asian Champions League after beating FC Seoul 2-1 in a thrilling contest.
The equation was simple for Victory heading into Thursday’s final group match in Qatar – anything other than a win would send them packing back to Australia.
Some early magic from Marco Rojas and a Jake Brimmer penalty gave Victory a 2-0 lead before halftime, but nerves were jangling when FC Seoul pulled a goal back in the 64th minute.
The Korean powerhouses had several penalty appeals turned down in the final 20 minutes, but they were all waved away.
The result saw Victory finish second in Group E, and they will now take on Group F winners Ulsan Hyundai in the round of 16 on Sunday.
“We had to fight really hard,” Rojas said.
“It was a difficult game. But we had the two-goal advantage and were able to hold on for the win.
“We’re very happy and proud to be going into the next round.”
Victory made a dream start to Thursday’s match, with Rojas unleashing a nice shimmy to score the opener in the fifth minute.
FC Seoul had a penalty appeal waved away in the 17th minute when Victory goalkeeper Max Crocombe bundled over Osmar during an attempted save.
Just five minutes later, Victory were themselves awarded a penalty – and this one was clear after Hwang Hyun-Soo unleashed a clumsy tackle on Callum McManaman.
Brimmer stepped up to convert the penalty, giving Victory a 2-0 lead and a foot into the knockout stages.
Veteran midfielder Leigh Broxham went off just before halftime with what appeared to be a leg injury.
FC Seoul pulled a goal back in the 64th minute following a goalkeeping error from Crocombe.
Crocombe charged off his line in an attempt to cut off a whippy cross, but Hwang Hyun-Soo rose high to meet the ball first and was able to head it into the open net.
Victory dodged a huge bullet in the 70th minute when FC Seoul’s penalty appeal for an Adama Traoré handball was turned down.
Replays showed Traore’s hand was away from his body when Yun Ju-Tae’s goalward-bound shot cannoned into it.
Instead, Ju-Tae received a yellow card for his desperate protest at the non decision.
Minutes later, Cho Young-Wook clattered to the turf in the box after slight contact with Victory’s Jay Barnett, but his pleas for a penalty fell on deaf ears.
Crocombe made up for his earlier error by making several crucial saves late in the match.