An impressive first half strike from Al Jazira’s Romarinho was enough for the United Arab Emirates title holders to see off Oceania club champions Auckland City FC in the first round of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE this morning (NZT).
Ramon Tribulietx’s charges, making a record ninth Club World Cup appearance, made a bright start to the encounter with Ryan de Vries taking the first of the side’s chances with a decent effort just deflected wide.
The best chance of the half came from Callum McCowatt whose strike from 12 yards was denied by goalkeeper Ali Khaseif – a trend set to continue throughout the match.
Auckland City were punished for not capitalising on that chance. After an impressive lead up between Ali Mabkhout and Romarinho the clearance from Angel Berlanga landed at the feet of Romarinho who put the ball past an outstretched Enaut Zubikarai with a powerful, and unstoppable, strike.
The Navy Blues absolutely dominated the second half and had plenty of opportunities however constantly found their shots were just in reach of Khaseif or just off-target.
With almost 60 per cent of possession it seemed Auckland City just needed luck on their side but despite having 10 corners and 17 shots to their opponents 5, it just wasn’t meant to be for the New Zealand club.
Auckland City FC captain Angel Berlanga said one thing was lacking from an almost complete performance from his side.
“A goal was the only thing we missed today,” the Spaniard said.
“We made a lot of chances and maybe on another day it would have been different and a goal would have been there.”
Coach Tribulietx believed his side deserved more from their ninth appearance on the world stage.
“We dominated clearly. They had maybe one shot and they scored it, and credit to them it was a great goal no doubt,” he said.
“The players should be proud. We had a lot of chances and proved to ourselves we can play at this level, we can play good football and we played good football tonight.
“This game is about scoring chances and that’s something we just weren’t able to do. Sometimes the game is like this.”
Al Jazira coach Henk Ten Cate admitted luck was somewhat on his team’s side.
“It wasn’t the best performance form us to be honest,” the Dutchman said.
“I thought the goal would take us over but the team was inexperienced. They were by far the best side but sometimes the better side doesn’t win the game.”
A relieved Mbark Boussoufa said he was pleased the team were able to open the tournament with a win.
“Of course we protected the 1-0 once we scored, but it was dangerous,” he said.
“It was a new challenge for us to play at the Club World Cup but we showed that nothing is impossible. We’re looking forward to continuing.
Auckland City FC are currently leading the ISPS Handa Premiership and will return to the domestic competition for an encounter with Tasman United on 17 December.