Victory's classy Sanfrecce gesture as Muscat praises style in defeat

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Kevin Muscat's side may leave Japan as losers but they left with the respect of their opponents

Melbourne Victory found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat to Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Tuesday night but left Japan with their heads held high.

With Victory star Keisuke Honda playing his first club game in Japan in a decade, Kevin Muscat's side abided by the Japanese custom of leaving their dressing room spotless and even left a thank-you message for Sanfrecce ater the match.

While a nice touch off the pitch, Victory just fell short on it with a late goal from Sanfrecce sinking Muscat's men after Honda had equalised.

The result leaves Melbourne bottom of their group with no points after their first two games.

Though now facing a massive challenge to reach the knockout stages, Muscat praised his side's style of play away from home.

"It's disappointing to sit here having lost the game, but I'm very proud of the team and the performance," Muscat said.

"To come to Japan, dominate the football game, dominate possession, dominate the play and be the more aggressive team is very pleasing.

"Sometimes the performance, you're not rewarded with the result, but to perform against a team here in Japan the way we did was very positive.

"It's important to reflect on the performance and as I said earlier, I like to play attacking football, I like to play exciting football and when we walked off the stadium, the reaction and the response we got from the local fans, the Sanfrecce fans, was for me, the respect that they showed for the way we tried to play so tonight and the next days will be a reflection."

Honda was instrumental to Victory's performance scoring the equaliser and generally dictating play for his side.

While his goal wouldn't be enough, Muscat couldn't fault Honda's determination to try and get a result.

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"Keisuke has a licence to receive the ball inside or outside," he said.

"The way Sanfrecce set up, dropping off, very defensive-orientated philosophy, very defensive team, the space between defenders and midfielders is very small so it was important to try and receive the ball behind those midfielders as much as possible.

"We put Keisuke inside for 10 or 15 minutes and he scored the goal. I was very pleased for Keisuke."

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