Courtesy of Auckland City FC 

A last gasp winner deep into injury time gave Korean champions Jeonbuk Motors a 1-0 win over Auckland City FC at the Futbol Salou Sports Complex on Sunday, January 22. 

It was the first time in 16 years since the two clubs first met at the FIFA Club World Cup in 2006 when Jeonbuk beat City 3-0 in Tokyo, Japan.

The Koreans beat Conor Tracey with a far post tap in after they were quickest to react to a vicious shot that cannoned off the underside of the crossbar after they latched onto a loose pass inside City’s defensive third.

The win looked highly unlikely for much of an evenly contested match that also saw Ryan De Vries have a powerful goal bound header sensationally tipped over in the first half.

Tracey was called into action just twice over the 90 minutes including one fantastic save from a thunderbolt shot inside City’s penalty area which the former New Zealand U-23 international deflected over with a strong hand in the second half.

Jeonbuk Motors field strong side

Jeonbuk fielded a strong side that featured internationals Song Min-kyu and Moon Seon-min who went to the FIFA World Cup in Russia four years ago and Brazil striker Gustavo, who was Jeonbuk’s top scorer last season. Highly rated international striker, Cho Gue-sung, recently linked with a move to the MLS and Celtic, also made an appearance. 

Two other Korean internationals including one-club man Choi Chul-soon and pacey winger Han Kyo-won also appeared.

While the result didn’t go the way City would have liked there was plenty to be positive about with coach Albert Riera’s starting eleven giving as good as they got against a team that wrapped up its ninth Korean League title at the end of 2022.

Riera upbeat about performance

Riera was upbeat about the performance, reminding observers that there is a process in place that is part of a bigger objective – the FIFA Club World Cup.

“We’re extremely happy because there were a lot of positive signs and I thought we gave a very good performance against a very strong team.

“Joenbuk Motors are one of the top teams not only in Korea, but in Asia, and I thought we played very well at a very good level.

“It took five minutes for our players to adjust to the speed of the game but after that they adapted well to what was required and I thought we went toe to toe with Jeonbuk Motors and probably should have been 1-0 up at the break,” he said.

Injury setback for Kilkolly

One setback could be an injury to second half substitute Angus Kilkolly who left Futbol Salou Sports Complex nursing a heavy knock to his ankle.

Kilkolly, who works as a painter decorator, has come through a serious knee injury picked up in a 5-3 win over Birkenhead United last winter and Riera is hopeful the injury is not too serious.

“At this point we don’t really know the extent of the injury that Angus has. He’s taking an x-ray today so hopefully we can get that done today and know what we have to deal with.

“It’s not the first time in these friendly games with professional sides that things can get a bit rough especially in the second half.

“Some teams believe they have a right to walk onto the pitch and just beat us but I believe we competed very well and some of the tackles that went on I don’t think were right but that’s the way it goes,” he said.

Nostalgic return for Ramon Tribulietx

One note of nostalgia, as if there weren’t plenty about playing Al Ahly and Jeonbuk Motors, was the welcome appearance of former Auckland City FC head coach Ramon Tribulietx.

Tribulietx led Auckland City FC to a bronze medal at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco in 2014 and was most latterly assistant coach at Honved in Hungary before he paid a brief visit to see the City team.

“It was great to see Ramon, I played under him for a very long time and he is an incredible coach and a good friend.

“When we spoke he had four or five quick observations to make which was great and any team who has his input is very lucky as he is so good at what he does,” Riera said.

Auckland City FC’s final friendly match in Spain is against Barcelona B at the Estadi Johan Cryuff on Wednesday 25 January 2023.

The team leaves Spain for Morocco two days later to begin its run towards the FIFA Club World Cup Playoff with Al Ahly.

Match Result:
Prestige Friendly
Sunday, January 22 
Jeonbuk Motors: 1 (Paik SEUNG-HO 90’+2′)
Auckland City FC: 0
HT: 0-0.

Next fixtures: 

Prestige Friendly
Wednesday 25 January 2023
Barcelona B v Auckland City FC
Barcelona, Spain
Kick-off: TBC

FIFA Club World Cup
Wednesday 1 February 2023
Al Ahly (Egypt) v Auckland City FC
Tangiers, Morocco
Kick-off: 8.00pm local time