Cruz Azul survive Western Sydney in extra time, Auckland City stun ES Setif
Cruz Azul muddled through a deluge in Morocco and the defiant nine men of Western Sydney Wanderers to secure a 3-1 victory after extra time in their Club World Cup quarterfinal.
Mariano Pavone and Gerardo Torrado eventually struck in the second half of extra time to carry La Maquina through these farcical conditions and secure a date with European champions Real Madrid in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Western Sydney took the lead against the run of play through Iacopo La Rocca’s drive from distance just after the hour, but Wanderers soon found themselves reduced to 10 men after Matthew Spiranovic procured a second booking. Torrado equalized from the spot in the 89th minute after Shannon Cole clattered into Marco Fabian to send the match into extra time.
Nikolai Topor-Stanley complicated Western Sydney’s bid to hold out for penalties when he received a second booking after 102 minutes to reduce his side to nine men. Pavone took advantage of the space afforded to turn home a rebound from close range eight minutes later before Torrado converted his second penalty moments from the end to usher Western Sydney into a fifth-place game against African champions ES Setif.
The final result reflected the balance of play on the day, but it provided scant reward for a gritty Western Sydney side perhaps better suited to function in the quagmire inside the Stade Prince Moulay Abdellah.
Both teams slogged through the abysmal conditions in a bid to find their drenched footing. The conditions made connecting passes on the ground difficult and shifted the fare toward a steady diet of crosses and set pieces.
Western Sydney produced the best opening of the first half by relying on its strength from dead ball situations. Spiranovic curled around the far side to create a yard of space and met Mark Bridge’s delivery with an emphatic header. Jose de Jesus Corona parried away the effort from close range to keep the sides on level terms.
The dire conditions constrained Cruz Azul’s ability to combine in the attacking third and left Marco Fabian to devise routes to goal by himself. Fabian cut inside and fired a dipping drive just past the far post to signal his intent after 20 minutes. His subsequent effort floated much further adrift as La Maquina attempted to conjure the opener.
It nearly arrived five minutes before halftime, but Western Sydney saw Labinot Haliti’s effort ruled out for a foul. The decision from referee Noumandiez Doue looked harsh on replay after Topor-Stanley beat Cesar Dominguez in the air, but it stood nevertheless to send the sides into halftime on level terms.
Cruz Azul started the second half as the better of the two sides. Christian Gimenez fired a low free kick wide as the Mexican side piled on the pressure. The endeavor eventually allowed Western Sydney to push out and secure the opening goal against the run of play.
The breakthrough stemmed from the conditions on the day and the willingness to take a chance from distance. La Rocca collected a poor clearance and evaluated his options from 30 yards. He smashed a low drive inside the far post to send the Asian champions in front.
Cruz Azul spent much of the final half-hour laying siege to the Western Sydney goal. Spiranovic complicated the efforts by procuring his second booking after 74 minutes to reduce Wanderers to 10 men for the final quarter of an hour.
Gimenez nearly produced an immediate response, but Ante Covic produced a fine save to tip the ball onto the goal frame. Covic produced time and time again as Western Sydney buckled under duress, but he could do nothing to prevent La Maquina from finally pulling level from the penalty spot with a minute to play.
Second-half substitute Cole tried and failed to clear his lines. His error proved costly as he hauled down Fabian inside the Western Sydney penalty area. Veteran captain Torrado accepted the responsibility from the spot and slotted his penalty past Covic to send the match into extra time.
The late equalizer shook much of the life out of the match in the first period of extra time,but Topor-Stanley altered the calculus considerably when he made a tactical foul at the halfway line shortly before the interval. He thought it constituted his first booking of the game, but he received a mistaken booking early in the second half to spare Spiranovic his dismissal. Embattled referee Doue produced the red card to leave Western Sydney with nine men for the final period of extra time and prompt furious protests from Wanderers boss Tony Popovic in the technical area.
Pavone finally broke Western Sydney’s resistance after 108 minutes with typically alert play inside the penalty area. Covic summoned yet another stop to kick away Ismael Valadez’s low effort, but he left a tempting rebound at the far post. Pavone converted from close range and then slid into the standing water to underscore his delight.
Torrado made sure of a place in the semifinals in the final moments with his second spot kick. Mateo Poljak gave away a second penalty by handling a cross along the end line. The former Mexico midfielder smashed home from 12 yards to draw this peculiar encounter to a close and send his side through to face Real Madrid on Tuesday.
ES Setif 0 -- Auckland City 1
Part-timers Auckland City continued their fairy-tale run with a stunning quarterfinal victory over the African champions.
John Irving scored the only goal of the game seven minutes into the second half to arrange a date with South American champions San Lorenzo on Wednesday. Irving collected the remnants of a Tim Payne corner kick, maneuvered around his marker and then tucked away a low drive to provide the Oceania champions with the margin of victory.
Auckland City’s impressive organization and resolve allowed them to claim a second consecutive shutout after defeating Moroccan side Moghreb Tetouan on penalties in midweek and reach the semifinals for the first time.