14 Dec 2014

Auckland make history at FIFA Club World Cup

11:56 am on 14 December 2014

Auckland City have made history by becoming the first New Zealand side to reach the semi-finals of the football Club World Cup after upsetting African champions ES Setif 1-0 in the quarter-finals in Morocco.

Auckland City's John Irving in action.

Auckland City's John Irving in action. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

A second-half strike from English import John Irving lifted the Oceania champions to a stunning North African double as they defeated the Algerian side to reach the final four for the first time.

The New Zealand part-timers, made up of amateur players who are making a record sixth appearance at the tournament, had already beaten Moroccan club Moghreb Tetouan on penalties in their preliminary round clash on Thursday.

They followed that up by dumping out the fancied African champions with Irving, a former reserve team player at Everton, grabbing the winner on 52 minutes when Tim Payne's corner fell to him on the edge of the penalty area.

He cut inside the defender and fired a low drive through a crowd of players that goalkeeper Sofiane Khedairia got a hand to but could not keep out.

Goalkeeper Tamati Williams, Auckland's hero in the penalty shoot-out win against Tetouan, made some crucial stops for the New Zealand side, the best of which was to deny a close range effort in the 61st minute.

The final 20 minutes had a frenetic pace about it, with Setif searching for the equaliser and Auckland looking to make their lead safe, and the Moroccan rain only made the game quicker.

Midfielder Payne says the players are still coming to terms with their achievement and says it's a "surreal" feeling to have made history.

He says they'll have to lift their performance to another level if they're to beat the South Americans and advance to an unlikely finals appearance.

The win is a massive boost for Auckland's coffers with the team now set for a minimum payday of more than $2.5 million, which they'll split with New Zealand football and their fellow top-flight domestic teams.

The Oceania champions Auckland will face South American champions San Lorenzo of Argentina in Thursday morning's semi-finals (8:30am NZ time).

Asian champions Western Sydney lost 3-1 in extra-time to Mexican side Cruz Azul in near-unplayable conditions.

The quarter-final in Rabat effectively became a lottery after monsoon-like rain drenched what was already a poor quality pitch.

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