Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat part-timers Auckland City 1-0 at the Club World Cup on Thursday in a landmark match where goal-line technology was available to the referee for the first time ever.
The J-League winners proved too strong for their New Zealand opponents, who were representing Oceania at the intercontinental tournament in Japan, to set up a quarter-final clash with seven-time African champions Al Ahly of Egypt.
FIFA made football history by trialling the first of two goal-line systems to be used at the showpiece event, however the match in Yokohama passed without GoalRef’s magnetic field technology being required to determine a close call.
Instead, a dramatic strike from Hiroshima’s Toshihiro Aoyama left the human eye in no doubt about whether a goal had been scored, with the ball hitting the back of the net in style.
The Japanese champions dominated possession in the first half, but several good saves from Auckland goalkeeper Tamati Williams – including one from close range – meant the two sides went into the break locked at 0-0.
Hiroshima started the second half with intent, hitting the post from a 20-yard strike on the 50-minute mark before having a header tipped wide shortly afterwards.
The New Zealanders, whose players included a lawyer and a plumber, started to tire and Hiroshima broke the deadlock in dramatic fashion after 66 minutes when midfielder Aoyama lashed the ball into the net from around 30 yards.
The men in purple looked keen to add to their tally but wasted a number of opportunities, going closest with a vicious strike that struck the bar with six minutes of the match remaining as a second goal proved elusive.
They survived a lucky scare at the death but ran out worthy winners and coach Hajime Moriyasu was pleased with the professionalism shown by his players.
“They were highly motivated,” he said.
“We only scored one goal, however we were able to create many, many chances. The players were very aggressive in the offence and we played our style (of football).”
Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx said his players should be proud of their performance.
“We have to be very happy with the game we played,” the Spaniard said.
“Don’t forget we are an amateur side, and coming up here and playing Hiroshima in Japan is very hard for us. We can hold our heads up high.”
Al Ahly next
Hiroshima, who won their maiden J-League title last month, on Sunday will play Al Ahly in Toyota where FIFA are trialling the second goal-line system – camera-based Hawk-Eye.
Fans have called for years for football to embrace technology aimed at eliminating human error, citing its use in other sports including tennis and cricket.
In July, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) – custodians of the game’s laws – decided to use goal-line technology at the Club World Cup, next year’s Confederations Cup and the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.
FIFA gave licences to Britain-based but Sony-owned Hawk-Eye and Germany’s GoalRef, following a testing process lasting around two years.
Both systems transmit their findings to devices that can be worn on officials’ wrists. Thursday’s game was the first time that officials had ever worn the watch-like device during a match.
European champions Chelsea and Copa Liberdatores winners Corinthians enter the Club World Cup at the semi-final stage.