And rarely does an A-League club like Victory attract a foreigner of the calibre of Keisuke Honda, who was also playing the last game in his season long contract with the team.
Given Muscat’s status as a bona fide legend not just of the club but the entire competition, it was disappointing that a crowd of 6,053 turned up to see him off, although it was perhaps not that surprising.
In recent years Victory fans have rarely ”done” the Asian Champions League, and despite the momentous nature of this game, this time was no exception.
Still, the hardcore Victory fans made their presence felt, serenading Valeri until he was replaced with 10 minutes remaining after unfurling a banner that read ”Kev and Carl, Forever In Our Hearts” before kick off.
The evening got off to a worrying start for Muscat, Valeri and Honda as Hiroshima signalled their intentions with a first minute attack in which Komhei Shimizu fired wide of Lawrence Thomas’s goal.
And their collective moods would have darkened considerably more in the fifth minute when the visitors took a lead they would hold to the interval.
A corner from Tsukasa Morishima was headed across the goal by Hiroya Matsumoto and Taishi Matsumoto – no relation – got into space to direct another header past Thomas.
Victory’s Swedish striker Ola Toivonen had had an early effort blocked but the tall forward got himself into a good position just after the quarter hour mark before moving the ball on to Kosta Barbarouses.
The Kiwi deflected a pass to Raul Baena only for the Spanish midfielder to shoot just wide of Takuto Hayashi’s goal.
Victory might have been a goal down, but they were in no way cowed by their J-League opponents, who had beaten them 2-1 earlier in the competition en route to booking a place in the last 16 without having to worry about the outcome of this game.
Honda began to get more involved in the contest from the midway point of the first half.
In the 26th minute he delivered a cross which was helped on by Terry Antonis to give Barbarouses another attempt on goal, which was dealt with in routine fashion by Takuto.
A minute later Honda split the Hiroshima defence in two with a beautifully weighted ball to find Toivonen in space.
The Swede can usually be backed to score in these kind of situations when one on one with the goalkeeper, but this time he put his shot just wide.
Still, Hiroshima could be dangerous when they clicked into gear at the other end of the pitch and it was only a fantastic save by Thomas, who got down low to palm away Hiroya Matsumoto’s header from a Morishima cross, that prevented the visitors from doubling their advantage.
Victory were handed a good opportunity just after the restart when Honda played Toivonen through before the Swede was be upended on the edge of the area by Gakuto Notsuda.
Toivonen got the ball up and over the wall only to be denied by Takuto’s diving save.
Thomas once again was pressed into action ten minutes after the interval, diving low to deny Kohei as the game swung from one end to another.
Toivonen went close just after the hour mark with a header from a Leigh Broxham cross, Takuto diving to clutch the ball to his chest.
But Victory did put a smile on Muscat’s face in the 70th minute when Toivonen scored an excellent equaliser from a long range free kick, curling the ball over the wall and wide of Takuto’s dive after substitute James Troisi had been brought down.
That joy was, however, only short lived. Within three minutes Hiroshima were back in front, Yusuke Minagawa curling the ball around Thomas from the left of the penalty area after Victory had surrendered possession.
And almost immediately after Hiroshima stretched that advantage even more to put the game to bed and ensure that Muscat and his colleagues would go out on a losing note.
The ball came to Tsukasa Morishima who was left alone in space some 25 metres from goal. As defenders backed away the midfielder advanced and then unleashed a fierce drive which left Thomas with little chance.
When Valeri departed the game stopped and players team-mates came from all ends of the pitch to salute him.
Muscat hugged Honda at the final whistle before embracing his substitutes and coaching staff, bringing the curtain down on 14 mostly successful years with the A-League powerhouse.
Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing