FIFA Club World Cup: Raja Casablanca 2 Auckland City 1
By Football News
Raja Casablanca survived a scare to defeat Auckland City 2-1 and qualify for the quarter-finals of FIFA's Club World Cup on Wednesday.
The Moroccan outfit - playing in their home country - were heavy favourites and dominated the first half at Stade d'Agadir.
They took a deserved lead in the 39th minute when Mouhssine Iajour atoned for an earlier miss with a stylish left-foot finish.
Fijian Roy Krishna shocked Casablanca by pouncing on a horrendous defensive error to level just after the hour mark, but Abdelilah Hafidi spared the blushes of the hosts with a close-range finish in the 92nd minute.
Casablanca will now play North American champions Monterrey of Mexico in the last eight.
Casablanca - the only side involved in the tournament who are not champions of their continent - entered the match on the back of a four-match winless run domestically.
They were buoyed by a partisan home crowd against amateur outfit Auckland City – winners of the OFC Champions League – and started brightly, with Adil Karrouchy volleying an excellent cross from captain Mohsine Moutaouali over in the seventh minute.
Iajour was sent through on goal in the 22nd minute but had his effort saved by the outstretched leg of Auckland goalkeeper Tamati Williams.
He made amends six minutes before half-time though, as a Karrouchy ball played him in.
Iajour beat Auckland skipper Ivan Vicelich before shooting past Williams from a tight angle.
Casablanca nearly had a second three minutes into the second half, with another excellent Karrouchy ball headed behind by John Irving, but dropped back after that and allowed Auckland into the match.
Christopher Bale shot wide before a smart Issam Erraki intervention kept out Krishna from a clever free-kick.
Auckland did level proceedings in the 63rd minute, as a dreadful defensive mix-up – which saw three players fail to clear and Mohamed Oulhaj and Karrouchy tackle each other – allowed Krishna in.
The forward kept his composure to slot past the onrushing Khalid Askri from outside the penalty area and his goal spurred Auckland on.
They started to have more of the ball and Krishna proved a continued threat, but a late Casablanca attack ended Auckland's hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.
The influential Karrouchy supplied the cross and, although Oulhaj's header was well saved by Williams, Hafidi was on hand to send the home crowd into raptures.