Kevin Muscat and his Yokohama F.Marinos side opened their 2023-24 AFC Champions League account with a 1-0 victory at Shandong Taishan.
A fine team goal capped by Kota Mizunuma gave F.Marinos their first win on matchday two in China on Tuesday, having been stunned 4-2 by Harrison Delbridge’s Incheon United in the Group G opener.
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Muscat entered the continental contest amid growing links with Scottish giants and former club Rangers, who sacked Michael Beale following a shock loss to Aberdeen over the weekend.
The F.Marinos head coach and A-Leagues legend emerged as the early frontrunner to fill the void thanks to his success in Japan, where he won the J1 League title last season and has the defending champions in the mix to go back-to-back this term.
At Jinan Olympic Sports Centre, the Japanese visitors overcame a tense start to break the deadlock eight minutes before half-time.
After being denied by a goal-line clearance, Elber was instrumental as his combination with Nam Tae-hee helped tee up Mizunuma.
Shandong hit the post early in the second half before F.Marinos had a goal ruled out by VAR.
With three minutes remaining, Shandong rattled the woodwork again as the J1 League champions held on for maximum points.
F.Marinos are second in Group G with three points, three adrift of Delbridge’s Incheon – who crushed Kaya FC 4-0.