Auckland City FC fall 1-0 at Club World Cup
Auckland City's involvement in football's Club World Cup has lasted just 90 minutes despite the best efforts of goalkeeper Tamati Williams, who produced a string of saves to ensure the Oceania champions at least bow out at the first stage with their heads held high.
Auckland lost their playoff match 1-0 to J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Yokohama this morning (NZT), courtesy of a long-range effort from Toshihiro Aoyama in the 59th minute, who was finally able to beat Williams after the goalkeeper had kept the Aucklanders in the match and even ignited thoughts of a boilover as the hour-mark approached.
The loss sends Auckland home from the seven-team tournament; Hiroshima win a spot in the quarterfinals against Egypt's Al-Ahly, the African club champions guaranteed a $US1 million payday while Auckland are consigned to half that amount, which will be split between themselves (roughly 25 per cent), New Zealand Football and the other seven national league franchises.
Auckland struggled to maintain parity in the possession stakes but they defended gallantly and had the odd chance to score themselves. They can have few complaints with the scoreline, however, as their more accomplished professional opposition understandably looked a cut above the amateurs and Mihael Mikic was a constant threat down the right flank.
That sentiment was reflected post-match by coach Ramon Tribulietx, who was far from disappointed despite being bundled out of the showpiece club event at the first stage for the second year in succession.
"I want us to keep our heads up. We showed with our facilities and our structure that we can present a good image of New Zealand football and I think we can be happy with that," he said.
"I think we have to be very happy with the way we played. Don't forget we're an amateur side and playing Hiroshima in Japan is very hard for us.
"We competed even to the very end and when we went 0-1 down we suited back up and even had a chance to equalise right at the end. We are defeated but we can keep our heads really high."
Tribulietx suggested that, with players who have to work eight-hour days before turning up for training, "we definitely have to go full time if we want to make it into the final stages of the Club World Cup"