Dream ends for Auckland City as Saudi champs win 3-0 at FIFA Club World Cup

posted in: FIFA Club World Cup, News

Auckland City’s FIFA Club World Cup dream is over after the Oceania champions were beaten 3-0 by Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia.

The Aucklanders held their own for periods of the game but the star quality of Al-Ittihad’s big-name players shone through, as the Saudi champions created 30 goalscoring opportunities and found the net with well-taken strikes.

The match kicked off in front of a 50,248-strong crowd charged up after a pre-match show that included stage performers, fireworks, and a light show.

A spectacular light show preceded the arrival of the teams on the pitch at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium.

The game started in light rain.

Al-Ittihad’s Romarinho, celebrating his 33rd birthday, created the first goal attempt of the game, firing high and wide of the Auckland City goal in the second minute.

Auckland City settled quickly, showing no signs of nerves and confidently stroking the ball around when in possession and quickly forming a two-line phalanx of defenders when the Saudis had the ball.

On two early occasions, Auckland City counterattacked and got into their opponents’ penalty area but they could not turn these forays into goal attempts.

Al-Ittihad had two clear chances — the first when Igor Coronado shot over the bar from 12 metres, the second when Karim Benzema missed the target.

A shot clears City ‘keeper Conor Tracey — and the crossbar — as Al-Ittihad increase the first-half pressure.

The Saudis were increasingly quicker to challenge City, putting them under pressure and forcing mistakes.

With a third of the game gone, Al-Ittihad broke through.

Romarinho got his birthday present with a strike from the edge of the area that took a deflection off Nathan Lobo on its way to the net.

Five minutes later, Al-Ittihad doubled their lead with a stunning goal from N’Gola Kante, when he pounced on a punched clearance from City ‘keeper Conor Tracey, rifling it into the net.

Main photo: N’Gola Kante’s shot flies past Conor Tracey for Al-Ittihad’s second goal.

As the half wore on, the rain became heavier.

In the 40th minute, Benzema made it 3-0 when he completed a neat interplay, tapping the ball into the net from close range.

Karim Benzema gets his side’s third goal from close range.

With the goal, Benzema became the first player to score at four different FIFA Club World Cup tournaments.

Auckland City had started the game at the TAB as $26 longshots to win. When Al-Ittihad went 2-0 up, the bookies offered $101 for the miracle turnaround.

By half-time, the TAB stopped offering any odds.

City started the second half showing no signs they felt written off.

They won a corner; then, they won a free-kick that eluded Al-Ittihad ‘keeper Marcelo Grohe as it curled into his area.

But Al-Ittihad began to look dangerous again, forcing saves from Tracey, and having pleas for a penalty turned down by referee Tori Penso.

Still, Auckland City remained positive, forcing three more corners as the hour mark approached.

More tournament history was created when Emiliano Tade came off the bench to equal the all-time tournament record of Al Ahly winger Hussein Elshahat of 12 Club World Cup appearances.

Conor Tracey flings himself across the goal to stop a shot from Coronado.

City goalkeeper Tracey was called upon to make a couple of excellent saves, the first a long-range effort from Coronado, the second a block on the near post.

Auckland City kept trying till the end, with Tade having a shot in stoppage time that deflected off a defender for a corner.

The final whistle went, sparking dancing in the crowd and on the pitch as Al-Ittihad players celebrated reaching the second round, and a tie against Egypt champions Al Ahly.

For Auckland’s players, the loss means a flight home and a return to their day jobs …

READ MORE: Pride, a record crowd … and a scramble for shirts after FIFA Club World Cup tie >>>>

Match stats

Al-Ittihad / Auckland City

First half

Shots: 19 / 1
Shots on target: 5 / 0
Possession: 54% / 46%
Passes: 272 / 251
Pass accuracy: 89% / 83%
Fouls: 5 / 5
Yellow cards: 0 / 0
Red cards: 0 / 0
Offsides: 0 / 0
Corners: 6 / 0

Full game

Shots: 30 / 4
Shots on target: 11 / 0
Possession: 55% / 45%
Passes: 561 / 484
Pass accuracy: 89% / 85%
Fouls: 9 / 8
Yellow cards: 0 / 0
Red cards: 0 / 0
Offsides: 0 / 1
Corners 9 / 5

The match was played before 50,248 fans at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, Jeddah.


Game played on Wednesday December 13 (NZT)
King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, Jeddah
Attendance: 50,248

Al-Ittihad 3 (Romarinho 29′, N’Gola Kante 34′, Karim Benzema 40′)
Auckland City 0



Marcelo Grohe, Zakaria Hawsawi (Ahmed Bamasud 83′), Muhannad Alshanqiti, Hassan Kadesh, Ahmed Hegazy, N’Golo Kante (Saleh Aljaman 77′), Fabinho, Igor Coronado (Sultan Alfarhan 77′), Faisal Alghamdi (Marwan Alsahafi 83′), Romarinho (Jota 59′), Karim Benzema (captain).

Subs not used: Abdullah Almayuof, Osama Almermesh, Omar Hawsawi, Suwailem Almanhali, Madallah Alolayan, Abderrazak Hamdallah.


Head coach: Marcelo Gallardo
Assistant coach: Matias Biscay
Assistant coach: Hernan Bujan
Assistant coach: Mariano Barnao
Assistant coach: Khalifa Hassan
Goalkeeper coach: Cesar Zinelli

Auckland City

Conor Tracey, Christian Gray (Adam Mitchell 83′), Nathan Lobo, Jordan Vale, Michael Den Heijer, Mario Ilich (Zhou Tong 68′), Cam Howieson (captain), Gerard Garriga (Joe Lee 56′), Dylan Manickum (Emiliano Tade 68′), Regont Murati (Angus Kilkolly 83′), Liam Gillion

Subs not used: Sebastian Ciganda, Joe Wallis, Timothy Boulet, Adam Bell, Ryan De Vries, Aidan Carey, Alfred Rogers.

Head coach: Albert Riera
Assistant coach: Ivan Vicelich
Goalkeeper coach: Enaut Zubikarai
Fitness: Adria Casals
Logistics: Keith Coton
Physio: Matt Payne


Referee: Tori Penso (United States)
Assistant Referee 1: Brooke Mayo (United States)
Assistant Referee 2: Katie Nesbitt (United States)
Fourth Official: Jean-Jacques Ndala Ngambo (DR Congo)

READ MORE: The trailblazing trio who’ll officiate Auckland City’s FIFA Club World Cup tie >>>>

Watch the match highlights

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