Asian champions head to Club World Cup semis thanks to Denilson brace.
|The New Zealand amateurs missed several good opportunities [AFP]|
Favourites Atlante progressed to their expected Club World Cup semi-final berth with a convincing 3-0 victory over Auckland City FC in Abu Dhabi.
Daniel Arreola put the Mexican side ahead after 36 minutes and fellow midfielder Christian Bermudez made sure in the 69th of the quarter-final at Zayed Sports City stadium where the 7,222 crowd was less than a sixth of capacity.
Atlante substitute Lucas Silva added a third in stoppage time after Oceania champions Auckland had come close twice in the second half with efforts by Chad Coombes and Adam McGeorge saved by Atlante’s captain and goalkeeper Federico Vilar.
Atlante will play Barcelona next Wednesday, the day after the first semi-final between Asian champions Pohang Steelers of South Korea and South America’s Estudiantes.
Auckland will play for fifth place against Africa’s TP Mazembe in Wednesday’s double bill.
Auckland had nine men behind the ball for long spells in the first half and often the only player in the Atlante half was Argentine Vilar.
The New Zealand amateurs, who became more adventurous after the interval, managed their first shot at goal from former South Korea midfielder Lee Ki-hyung in the 34th minute.
Their massed defence held out until the 36th when a mis-kick by midfielder McGeorge attempting to clear from a corner gave Arreola a free shot at goal to put the Mexican side ahead.
Striker Rafael Marquez almost added a second from another corner less than a minute later, his sharp header to the top corner being headed out on the line by left back Ian Hogg.
Benin referee Coffi Codjia booked two Mexicans for handball in the opening half hour in what could be interpreted as the Thierry Henry effect. Neither Marquez nor Arreola handled on purpose, rather the ball hit their arms as they attempted to control it.
Two minutes into the second half, Auckland might have equalised.
Right back Coombes, who scored a fine second goal in Auckland’s 2-0 win over home team Al Ahli in the inaugural match, shot low from the right. The diving Vilar parried, Daniel Koprivcic failed to latch onto the rebound and the danger was cleared.
Just past the hour, Atlante survived another scare when defender Miguel Navarro blocked an effort in a goalmouth melee and McGeorge shot from the rebound only for Vilar to save well.
Bermudez scored Atlante’s second with 21 minutes remaining when he exchanged a one-two with Marquez and shot between Jacob Spoonley’s legs.
Marquez missed a sitter in the 75th when he shot wide with only Spoonley to beat before Brazilian Silva scored Atlante’s third in stoppage time.