Kashiwa Reysol have claimed victory in the opening match of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011, striking twice in the space of three first-half minutes to inflict a 2-0 defeat on Auckland City at the Toyota Stadium. The J.League champions fended off a brave challenge from the Oceanian kings thanks to goals from Junya Tanaka and Masato Kudo, and can now look forward to a quarter-final against Monterrey of Mexico three days from now.
The action was preceded by an opening ceremony that culminated with some deafening fireworks, but there was nothing particularly explosive during an untidy opening to the match itself. Reysol began marginally the better, and might have taken the lead as early as the fourth minute but for a frantic goal-line clearance from Ian Hogg, which prevented Tatsuya Masushima’s right-foot shot from finding the net.
Auckland, in truth, were rarely troubled during the half-hour that followed, but with 37 minutes played – and completely out of the blue – Reysol took the lead. Tanaka was the man who provided the inspiration, twisting and spinning away from two defenders on the edge of the box before rifling in a left-footed shot that flew past keeper Jacob Spoonley at his near post.
The recently-crowned Japanese champions were just about worthy of their lead at this stage, and going in front appeared to remove any lingering tension from their play. Within three minutes, they had doubled their advantage, Kudo smashing high into the net from close range after Hiroki Sakai’s header had rebounded back off the post. And Reysol should really have put the outcome beyond doubt just a minute before half-time, but Leandro Domingues missed a gilt-edged chance, chipping casually beyond the far post after being played clean through by fellow Brazilian Jorge Wagner.
That miss allowed Auckland to retain a glimmer of hope, and they began the second half with far greater attacking intent. Reysol spent much of the remainder of the match pinned back in their own half, with the Kiwis going close after 57 minutes, when Manel Exposito volleyed narrowly over following a quickly taken free-kick.
The same player again went close with 20 minutes remaining, attempting a delicate chip that had keeper Takanori Sugeno scrambling only to land on top of the net. Sugeno then came to Reysol’s rescue as the clock ticked down, saving brilliantly from Dave Mulligan’s net-bound free-kick as Auckland bade Japan 2011 an early farewell.