Auckland City will not lift the trophy on Saturday. Paul Posa’s part-timers have, nevertheless, revelled in a spectacular success story in Abu Dhabi.
The Kiwi outfit, founded in 2004, arrived at UAE 2009 having lost their previous two FIFA Club World Cup matches, failing to score and conceding five times in the process. They will return home having won twice and finished fifth, courtesy of today's dramatic 3-2 reverse of ten-man TP Mazembe.
Jason Hayne put Auckland ahead after they had been placed at a numerical advantage, and he later made it 2-2 after the Congolese giants had mounted a stirring comeback. Then, with the four minutes of allocated added time almost up, Riki van Steeden slotted home the winner against the run of play to spark euphoria among his club's staff.
The game began at a lethargic pace, with Mazembe enjoying the territorial advantage but failing to test Auckland goalkeeper Paul Gothard despite half-chances falling to Kazembe Mihayo and Mulota Kabangu.
The game swung in the Oceanian side’s favour on 24 minutes, however, when Chad Coombes’s defence-splitting pass sent Daniel Koprivcic in behind the Africans’ defence. Goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba dashed from his area to divert the danger, but handled the ball and was duly sent off.
Aime Bakula rose from the bench, replacing Luyeye Mvete, to assume the Mazembe gloves, but five minutes later he was picking the ball out of his net. Adam Dickinson sprayed a long ball forward from the right-back position, setting up a sprint for the ball between Hayne and Bakula. The latter got there first, chested it past the former, and slotted it into the vacant goal from the edge of the box.
The remainder of the half was devoid of any clear opportunities. The second half, however, quickly sprung into life. Substitute Daniel Morgan sent Hayne bearing down on goal on 52 minutes but, instead of squaring the ball to the unmarked Grant Young, the No16 took on the shot himself and hit it straight at Bakula.
Mabi Mputu then underlined his capabilities, spinning impressively on the edge of the Auckland penalty area before smashing the ball high and wide. Mazembe did manage an equaliser on the hour mark, though, a 25-yard bullet from Ngandu Kasongo flying into Gothard’s top right-hand corner.
Didier Garzitto's charges had found their rhythm and they set about laying siege to their adversaries’ goal. First, a Mulota Kabangu cross afforded Kilitcho Kasusula a shot, seven yards out, which Gothard did superbly to divert over the crossbar with his legs. Mputu then headed narrowly wide from the resulting corner.
Kasusula eventually got his goal on 68 minutes, though it was indebted to the ingenuity of Mputu. The Mazembe captain employed a sumptuous back-heel to send the No3 roaring into the box, and he smashed the ball into the roof of the net with the aid of a slight deflection.
Auckland’s response was swift. The ball deflected into the path of Young, whose eight-yard effort was bravely blocked by Bakula, only for Hayne to thunder the rebound high into the net from 12 yards. Mazembe spurned a great chance to regain the lead on 78 minutes, with Ngandu Kasongo unable to divert Mputu’s mishit shot home from close range.
A huge roar went up on 84 minutes, when the big screens focused on Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, who was watching the action. Dioko Kaluyituka then wasted two golden opportunities to snatch the contest's fifth goal. First, he spun his marker before striking the ball agonisingly across the goal and out for a goal-kick. Then, he hit the side-netting from an encouraging position inside the area.
The game needed a hero and deep, deep into added time, one emerged. His name was Riki van Steeden, who burst into the Mazembe box, collected Young’s pass and slotted the ball past Bakula for a dramatic winner.