Antlers progress to face Sundowns in CWC

At a sparsely filled International Stadium in Yokohama, Japanese J1 League champions Kashima Antlers beat the Oceanian Club Championship winners Auckland City 2-1 in Thursday’s playoff for the quarter-finals of FIFA’s Club World Cup.

It was the Antlers who enjoyed the better of the exchanges in the first period with goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai making a number of crucial saves. He made his first routine stop from Yasushi Endo inside the first 10 minutes.

However, City did hit back in the 17th minute when Emiliano Tade forced Hitoshi Sogahata into a save down to his left after good work from Joao Moreira. It would be the champions of Japan who would test Zubikarai again in the 25th minute. The Spaniard was forced into a double save and conceded a corner.

The New Zealand club grew into the contest yet it would be the Japanese who again tested the Spanish keeper on two more occasions before the break. Despite enjoying the better of the first period, it would be City who hit the front when Kim Daewook's header found the net from Tade's set piece in the 50th minute.

Antlers poured forward in pursuit of an equaliser and started to dominate possession as City hung on to their lead. Nonetheless, it was 1-1 in the 67th minute when Shuhei Akasaki fired home from Ryota Nagaki's assist. 

Masatada Ishii's men were in full control as the visitors faced an onslaught in the final 20 minutes. Akasaki and Shuto Yamamoto both had efforts that narrowly missed the target. Mu Kanazaki would also see a strike saved by Zubikarai with a few minutes left.

Eventually, Kashima broke City's resistance in the 88th minute when Kanazaki clinically finished a header from close range following Shoma Doi's clever touch into his path. There were few further scares as the J1 League champions progressed to face Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarter-finals.