Though Auckland City had turned heads in the Club World Cup, they were clearly our of their depth against the Japanese national team.
In a first half where Auckland couldn’t get the ball into the attacking third, it was a matter of how long. Played in the late afternoon of a sweltering hot Newcastle day both teams did seem a little off the pace at times.
Until Yasuhito Endo’s goal in the 33rd minute the best chances fell to Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki. Honda lashing a bouncing volley wide, while Okazaki failed to get on the end of a teasing cross that crossed the face of goal.
With his goal coming off a deflected drive Endo bowed his head while receiving plaudits of his teammates. The Gamba Osaka midfielder showed his classy touch throughout the match but it was Keisuke Honda who had most influence over proceedings.
Auckland looked to make amends in the second half and certainly acquitted themselves well. Nigerian Sanni Issa will surely have impressed any scouts on the lookout for a strong and speedy forward. His injection into the game ensured the Japanese defenders experienced some pressure prior to the tournament.
The Cessnock crowd full of Samurai Blue admirers were almost stunned when Issa found himself one on one with keeper Eiji Kawashima, after a quick counter down the kiwi left. The diagonal ball was met by Issa at the edge of the box, but the Nigerian could only spray the ball high and wide. A tough chance, but one that would light up the eyes of any footballer.
Japan took the warning in the 76th minute and Auckland never threatened again. With Kiyotake, Konno and Muto coming on 10 minutes into the second half, the changes proved a master stroke.
Kiyotake provided the assist for Okazaki’s 90th minute goal after some clever interplay with Keisuke Honda. All that was left for the Mainz striker was to tap it in.
Japan ending the match comfortable 2-0 winners after a minor scare in the 76th minute.