A goal in each half from Yusuke Minagawa and Tsukasa Shiotani sent Sanfrecce Hiroshima through to the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2015 as they overcame Auckland City 2-0 at Yokohama International Stadium.
Sanfrecce, only crowned J.League winners on Saturday, deserved their win against the Oceanian champions. Wide-players Yoshifumi Kashiwa and Kohei Shimizu on the flanks were instrumental. Throughout the game, they tested Auckland’s full-backs Takuya Iwata and Marko Dordevic at regular intervals. But while the Kiwis knew their opponent’s likely game plan, stopping it proved to be difficult.
As the rain began to fall, Kashiwa’s magic on the right set up Gakuto Notsuda with a chance. His goalbound drive from distance forced Jacob Spoonley into a low save down to his right. Soon afterwards, with just nine minutes on the clock, Sanfrecce took the lead. Notsuda once again tried his luck from just outside the box, but this time Spoonley spilled the shot and Minagawa was on hand to pounce from close range.
It proved to be Notsuda’s last meaningful contribution to the match, as the 21-year-old midfielder was forced to withdraw through injury. The subsequent substitution interrupted Sanfrecce’s rhythm and while Auckland had a couple of half chances, goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi was relatively untroubled, save for a shot from Joao Moreira which lacked power.
Sanfrecce could have doubled the lead in the 25th minute when Notsuda’s replacement Kosei Shibasaki’s through ball presented Minagawa with a one-on-one opportunity. However, Spoonley stood firm, narrowing the angle perfectly and this time the forward fluffed his lines. While assistant referee Evarist Menkouande later raised his flag for offside, both protagonists were not to know that at the time.
Kashiwa was at the centre of the action shortly before half-time, putting in an inch-perfect cross for the unmarked Shiotani who headed it straight at the keeper. At the other end a minute later, Te Atawhai Husdon-Wihongi dragged a well-worked free-kick wide of the target as the OFC champions finished the half the stronger of the two sides.
Dancing Douglas almost undoes Auckland
Brazilian forward Douglas, who had come on in the 53rd minute as a replacement for fellow substitute Shibashi, began and started a nice interchange of quick passes but slipped as he shaped to shoot and the chance went begging.
Needing an equaliser, Ramon Tribulietx committed more numbers in attack, but in doing so left gaps at the back which were almost exploited by Takuma Asano who fired a shot just wide from the edge of the area.
But with 20 minutes to go, the Japanese side had the second they had been hoping for. Douglas found Shiotani on the right and his shot deflected off Dordevic and between the legs off Spoonley.
Only a fine save from Spoonley, low to his left, prevented Douglas from scoring Sanfrecce’s third. He connected with a powerful header to Kashiwa’s cross from the right, but the All White international was equal to it.
Auckland City were forced to play out several of the remaining minutes with ten men as Iwata suffered a cut head after an accidental collision with Kashiwa, but the left-back came back on bandaged up much to the delight of his several hundred friends and family who had been supporting the visitors’ in his honour.
Hajime Moriyasu’s side will now meet African champions TP Mazembe in Sunday’s quarter-final in Osaka, while the Navy Blues head home after an all-too brief Japanese adventure.