Auckland City have been denied another famous FIFA Club World Cup scalp in heartbreaking fashion, losing 2-1 to J.League champions Kashima Antlers in the opening match of this year’s edition in Yokohama, Japan overnight.
Kashima Antlers advanced to the second round of the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup Japan after coming from a goal down to defeat Auckland City at the
Kim Daewook headed home an Emiliano Tade free-kick to open the scoring on 50 minutes and raise hopes that the Oceania Champs could start another fairy tale run after finishing fifth in 2009 and third two years ago.
Shuhei Akasaki grabbed the equaliser for the freshly crowned Japanese champions side 17 minutes later and just as the game seemed destined for extra-time fellow substitute Mu Kanazaki grabbed a dramatic late winner, heading from close range.
The win sets up a meeting with CAF Champions League winners and tournament-newcomers Mamelodi Sundowns in the next round on 11 December in Osaka while Auckland return to New Zealand to face leaders Eastern Suburbs in a pivotal Stirling Sports Premiership derby.
Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx was proud of his players and their performance in Yokohama.
“Kashima made it very difficult and wouldn’t let us play. It’s human nature – when you go one nil up in a very tight game you tend to drop off. It wasn’t our plan but sometimes these things happen,” Tribulietx said.
“I think the team played a fantastic game. It was going to be a matter of small details and some of the small details didn’t go our way unfortunately. We’re very happy with the performance and perhaps on another day day it’ll be our day.”
In what was the 100th Club World Cup fixture, an important piece of history was made with video assistance being used to support referees with match-changing decisions for the first time in a FIFA competition.
The host club’s fans, in great spirits before kick off and throughout game, gave relentless support to their side, who enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the first-half. While they looked to be putting Auckland under pressure, however, it was the New Zealand outfit who enjoyed the first clear-cut chance on 17 minutes.
Forward Ryan De Vries delivered a cross from the left, finding Joao Moreira inside the area who flicked the ball onto Emiliano Tade, but the Argentinian’s low strike was saved by veteran goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata.
Kashima gradually started to make their possession count but were unable to break the deadlock in the first half, with Yasushi Endo twice being denied in quick succession from close range by goalkeeper Enuat Zubikarai on 25 minutes.
Shortly before the break, Shoma Doi – showing superb technique to flick the ball past Albert Riera – charged towards goal after getting the better of his marker, but his threatening effort from the edge of the D was held by Zubikarai.
Despite looking the better side in the first half, Kashima found themselves a goal down on 50 minutes. A superbly-timed free-kick from Tade found Kim inside the box – and the defender from Korea Republic headed home past Sogahata to put the OFC Champions League winners into the lead.
Kashima’s Daigo Nishi launched a cross into the box on 60 minutes in search of Endo, but Auckland defender Darren White did well to rise and head the ball clear of danger. But the J.League kings, looking more threatening going forward, grabbed an equaliser on 67 minutes when Ryota Nagaki cut back to pick out Akasaki inside the area, who found the bottom corner.
The J.League side continued to pile on the pressure and they were rewarded for their persistence on 88 minutes when Mu headed home from close range. Their attention now turns to Osaka’s Suita City Football Stadium on Sunday, where South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns awaits.
Additional reporting FIFA.com