Al Ahli beat Auckland to set up Internacional clash

December 10, 2006

TOYOTA, Japan, Dec 10 (Reuters) - African champions Al Ahli beat New Zealand's Auckland City 2-0 on Sunday to earn a crack at Brazil's Internacional at the Club World Cup.

Angola striker Flavio fired home six minutes into the second half and dangerman Mohamed Aboutrika curled in a free kick in the 73rd minute as Ahli dominated the tournament curtain raiser.

The Egyptian side's reward will be a semi-final against South American champions Internacional in Tokyo on Wednesday.

'Last year we finished last which put a lot of pressure on the team,' Ahli manager Manuel Jose told reporters. 'We were very nervous in the first half but the first goal gave us the confidence to control the match.'

Seeded teams Barcelona and Internacional are scheduled to meet in the final of the competition involving the world's six continental champions.

Al Ahli totally outclassed Oceania representatives Auckland with Aboutrika twice coming close to breaking the deadlock in the first half.

Flavio gave Ahli a deserved lead in the 51st minute, smashing a fierce shot past Auckland goalkeeper Ross Nicholson from the edge of the box after Emad Moteab's neat layoff.

Aboutrika effectively sealed Ahli's victory midway through the second half with a superb free kick from 20 metres that left Nicholson rooted to the spot.

Semi-professional Auckland rarely threatened Ahli's goal, with the second-half introduction of former Japan midfielder Teru Iwamoto doing little to improve their fortunes in chilly Toyota.

'For an amateur side playing against such a strong team I thought we did remarkably well,' Auckland manager Allan Jones said.

'We showed courage in moving the ball forward but it was not to be.'

European champions Barcelona are red-hot favourites to win the tournament.

The Catalans begin their campaign in Yokohama on Thursday when they take on the winners of Monday's clash between Mexico's Club America and South Korea's Chonbuk Motors.

The final is in Yokohama on Dec. 17.

Brazil's Sao Paulo edged out Liverpool 1-0 in last year's final to win the first edition of the revamped FIFA tournament.