A first-half Kosta Barbarouses goal has earnt Melbourne Victory a crucial win over Yokohama F Marinos, keeping them alive in the Asian Champions League.
For the second straight ACL match, Victory yielded most of the possession and the chances, and could be very thankful Yokohama appeared to leave their shooting boots back in Japan.
But they were able to hold on for a crucial 1-0 win – and their first clean sheet in more than three months.
Victory again fielded a re-jigged line-up as they contend with five matches in 16 days, welcoming Adrian Leijer back into the starting eleven after missing eight games with facial fractures.
Unfortunately for Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou watching in the stands, Muscat rested both his national team players Mark Milligan and Tom Rogic.
But it was an All White who stole the headlines, with Barbarouses netting early.
After eight minutes Jimmy Jeggo took advantage of sloppy work in midfield from Yokohama, taking possession and finding Barbarouses with a through-ball, who made no mistake.
Victory struggled for possession and fluency in a first-half without clear-chances, with coach Kevin Muscat berating his players for giving away the ball.
On 26 minutes Victory avoided what looked to be a clear penalty when the speedy Saito Manabu surged into the box.
His cross appeared to strike Pablo Contreras’ arm but did not draw the attention of the young Malaysian referee.
Despite their huffing and puffing, Yokohama had failed to test Lawrence Thomas in the Victory goal for the first half, with that streak continuing after Sato Yuhei sent a good chance wide early in the second half.
On 54 minutes, substitute Jungo Fujimoto rattled the crossbar from a free-kick.
Having seen his first-half lead evaporate in all three ACL matches so far, Muscat had seen enough and sent on Milligan for Leigh Broxham to sure up his midfield.
Yokohama stepped up their pressure, going close again through Fujimoto and Saito finally forcing a save out of Thomas.
Muscat, who earnt his first ACL win as manager, said his side had to “withstand a barrage of pressure”.
“There was a certain desperation tonight in that final third to stand up and really defend and not concede. That was an improvement on the last game against Jeonbuk.”
The two teams will meet again in Japan in a fortnight, when Yokohama coach Yasuhiro Higuchi will hope his team can be more ruthless in front of goal.
“As long as we win the remaining three matches, we will be able to progress,” he said.