Auckland’s dream run halted

It was a game of strong challenges and several fouls with of few chances for either team, but Pablo Barrientos and Angel Berlanga capitalised on either side of the interval, which forced the extra time period. Mauro Matos only needed three minutes to find a winner, which ultimately sent the Argentinian side through.
After a dream run that has seen his side etch their name in the history books, Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx had nothing but praise for his team.
“We’re the moral victors,” he said following the final whistle.
“We had the chance to win the gaem in normal time. My players are obviously devastated because we came so close to winning. We’re very proud of the way we played today and we’ll remember it for a long time.
“We were brave, had a lot of possession against the South American champions, and showed that we can compete at this level and play good football,” he continued.
“I’m very proud of my players – they’d have deserved to win today. It’s fantastic to be at this tournament and showing the world what we’re capable of.”
The first half started slowly with few chances for either side, but at the stroke of half-time Barrientos received a cross from the left side and buried a half-volley to give San Lorenzo the lead heading into the break.
The South American champions looked the likelier to the two teams to score in the second half despite Auckland City enjoying slightly more possession, but Berlanga breathed life into his side midway through the final 45 minutes.
A counter attack from Auckland City saw Ryan De Vries drive through the heart of San Lorenzo’s backline before the ball squeaked out to Berlanga, streaking down the edge of the box. The Spaniard then did well to finish from an extremely acute angle to give Auckland City their equaliser.
Berlanga’s goal seemed to open things up a bit, and ten minutes later Martin Cauteruccio nearly put San Lorenzo back in the lead with a wicked side volley from the top of the area but the Argentinian No9 was denied by the woodwork.
Only moments later Emiliano Tade had an even better chance to put the OFC champions ahead. Auckland’s Argentinian stiker was clear in on goal after a perfect pull back from De Vries, but a heavy first touch led to a mis-hit shot that veered well wide.
With the match locked at 1-1 it headed into extra time and it took less than three minutes of extra time for San Lorenzo to reestablish their lead when Matos finished with a simple strike from 16 yards out following a missed clearance.
Barrientos was battling in the middle of the box and John Irving looked to poke the ball clear but instead it fell straight to Matos, who had no hesitation finding the back of the net.
Tamati Williams came up with a big save against Cauteruccio towards the end of the first period of extra time to keep Auckland within reach of the South American champions.
And in the second period of extra time, Tim Payne nearly brought Auckland level again but his effort the post.
But unfortunately for Oceania’s heros, San Lorenzo were able to hold on for the remaining few minutes and now await a showdown against Real Madrid on Saturday.
While Auckland City may not be heading into a star-studded finale against Spanish giants Real Madrid, they still have plenty to play for.
The Oceania champions will now face Mexican club Cruz Azul in the 3/4 play-off on 20 December at Le Grand Stade de Marrakech, with kick-off at 4.30pm (Sunday 21 December 5.30am NZT).
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