In the tournament's opening match, hosts Reysol outshot their New Zealand-based opponents in what was mostly an uneventful 90 minutes for both sides
The Oceania League champions were keenly aware of the challenge they faced in tempering Reysol’s explosive attack, and responded to the host representative’s 4-4-1-1 formation with what could practically be described as a six-man back line.
By the 22nd minute, Reysol had already earned four corner kicks but neither side truly asserted control. Finally in the 37th minute, Reysol forward Junya Tanaka muscled his way around Auckland defender Alex Feneridis on the left side before releasing a tight-angled shot that goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley had little chance of stopping.
They doubled their lead just three minutes later when Leandro’s free kick rebounded off the right post and eventually fell to 21-year-old Masato Kudo, who hammered the ball for a 2-0 lead that Reysol took into the locker room at half-time.
The second half introduced new challenges for both sides as a rapid drop in temperature caused a sudden fog to fall on the stadium, slightly reducing visibility. Reysol sustained a potentially serious blow near the 65th minute when Hiroki Sakai appeared to injure his knee and eventually limped off the pitch to be substituted by ex-Celtic player Koki Mizuno.
Auckland’s best chance came in the 79th minute on a free kick just outside the penalty area. Mulligan’s shot looped perfectly over the wall and would have slid under the post if not for Takanori Sugeno’s super save; his efforts were needed just seconds later after the ensuing corner but Reysol preserved their lead and survived the rest of the match without incident.
Reysol next face CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey in a quarterfinal match on Sunday evening.