Auckland City booked their place in the quarter-finals with a 2-0 victory over Al Ahli in the curtain-raiser to the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009. Adam Dickinson and Chad Coombes scored in each half for the Oceania champions, who will now face Mexico's Atlante on Saturday.
The game began tentatively, with the teams feeling one another out. Auckland’s Lee Ki-Hyung wasted the first chance on 12 minutes, shooting a free-kick straight into the wall from 25 yards, before City missed a better opportunity to take the lead. Ian Hogg refused to give up what appeared a lost cause, stole possession inside the hosts’ penalty area and, unselfishly, squared the ball to Adam Dickinson, whose strike from nine yards was blocked by the legs of Yosif Abdalla.
Ahli served their own notice of intent minutes later. Salem Khamis craftily fed the ball into Hassan Ali, whose rasping volley from distance went just inches wide of the post.
What had been a slow-paced match quickly transformed into a lively, end-to-end contest. Auckland’s Jason Hayne fired well wide from the edge of the box on 27 minutes, with Ahli striker Bare having an effort deflected over the crossbar soon afterwards.
Yousif Jaber was next to try his luck, his fiercely-struck free-kick going narrowly wide, although City goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley had it covered. Adam McGeorge then watched his superb shot from 30 yards loop over Abdalla but land on the roof of the net.
Bare blasted wide from outside the box on 43 minutes but, just when a goalless first half appeared imminent, the New Zealanders broke the deadlock. Hayne burst purposefully down the right and delivered a brilliant cross, which Dickinson, who had edged in front of his marker, neatly cushioned home. Ahli almost snatched an instant equaliser but after Bare’s shot was blocked, Khamis somehow scooped the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Within inutes of the restart, Dickinson had registered another shot, although this time his firm effort from the edge of the box sneaked wide. Ahli’s Mohamed Rashid almost had a sight on goal on 51 minutes, but Spoonley did well to smother the ball.
Auckland doubled their lead on 67 minutes. There seemed little danger when Coombes received possession 30 yards from goal, but seconds later he was sprinting away in celebration after his piledriver flew into the roof of the Ahli net.
Ahli, to their credit, tried to force their way back into the game. However, they found an Auckland rearguard marshalled by the outstanding Ivan Vicelich an impregnable obstacle. The City captain, indeed, made a series of tackled and blocks, and bravely headed clear one cross when it appeared destined to present Bare with a chance.
The referee’s final whistle ended the Dubai team’s participation in the competition, and provoked raised arms from the jubilant visitors.