Cristiano’s seventh minute goal against Al Ahly was enough for Adelaide United to seal fifth place at Japan 2008 in a game of few chances at the International Stadium in Yokohama.

It was the Australians who were the quickest out of the blocks. As early as the third minute, Al Ahly goalkeeper Amir Abdelhamid had his hands warmed when Alemao’s shot was aimed straight at him, but he was powerless to do anything about the Australians’ opener with just seven minutes on the clock.

After a prolonged period of possession down the left hand side, Cristiano picked up possession in the inside left channel, cut inside and unleashed an unstoppable right footed shot, which swerved past the dive of the outstretched keeper and into the top right hand corner of the net.

Abdelhamid was called into action a few minutes later, pulling off a stunning save to deny Sasa Ognenovski after he rose above the Egyptians’ defence to direct Paul Reid’s accurate cross on target. Adelaide could, and possibly should, have doubled their advantage after 14 minutes when Robert Younis fed Cristiano inside the box and, with just the keeper to beat, he screwed his shot wide.

That proved to be Adelaide’s last meaningful chance of the half. Having lost the influential Diego with a knee injury, Al Ahly began to see more of the ball and despite not creating a shot on target during the opening 45 minutes; they did cause the Aussies some nervous moments.

Ahmed Hassan and Flavio both had chances that flashed wide of the target, but their best came four minutes before half-time when Ahmed Fathi’s corner found Flavio at the near post, but it was the wrong side of the netting which rippled, much to the fans’ disappointment.

The final action of the first half saw Mohamed Aboutrika curl a free-kick wide of the post. It was his last action of the tournament as he was replaced by Hussein Yasser at the interval.

Al Ahly’s dominance extended into the second half, but instead of trying to hit Adelaide on the counter attack, which worked to great effect in the first half against Pachuca, they continually tried to pump high balls into the box, which Aurelio Vidmar’s side defended with reasonable ease.

The African champions had their first attempt on goal in the 79th minute, a tame Hani Elagizy header comfortably claimed by Eugene Galekovic, but minutes later the Aussie keeper was called into action again, producing a stunning reflex save to deny Mohamed Bakarat.

At the final whistle, Adelaide celebrated a fine showing at this tournament, while Al Ahly slumped off the pitch after two defeats in matches that they thought they would win. The African champions and their coach Manuel Jose will be hoping for CAF Champions League success once again in 2009 in order to show the world their true potential.

Story and photograph courtesy of