No fairytale for Auckland City
This could have been another moment of glory for Auckland City at the Fifa Club World Cup, to join the ones from 2014 and 2009.
But despite their dominance throughout, they lost 1-0 to Al Jazira, the reigning United Arab Emirates champions, and their campaign has finished at the playoff stage for the third year in a row.
City have played at the Club World Cup nine times, but they have never been on top in a match like they were on Thursday [NZ time] at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain in the UAE.
They outshot their opponents 17 to five. They had seven shots on target to two. They had 59 per cent of possession to Al Jazira’s 41. The key statistics have never been in their favour like that at this tournament.
But they are now headed home and back to the New Zealand national league, and they will surely wonder what might have been.
The goal that Al Jazira scored was a fine one, there is no doubt about that. In the 38th minute, their prolific striker, Ali Mabkhout, ran at the City defence for the first time all night, but defender Angel Berlanga was there to pick his pocket. Unfortunately for Berlanga, the ball rolled into space, and Romarinho ran in and smashed it towards goal from 25m out, where it beat keeper Enaut Zubikarai to the left.
Zubikarai only had one other save to make all night, and that was very late in the game, when Mabkhout took a shot from outside the box that he dealt with easily.
Down the other end, Al Jazira’s keeper Ali Khaseif was kept busy.
Al Jazira coach Henk ten Cate summed it up the best, talking about the team his side had somehow beaten. ‘‘They were today the better side, but in football sometimes the best doesn’t win.’’
Auckland City’s Darren White attacks Mbark Boussoufa (Al Jazira) during the FIFA club world cup play-off match in the United Arab Emirates.