Al Ain came from three goals down and recorded a 4-3 penalty shoot-out win over Team Wellington after a six-goal thriller in a captivating opening game at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018.
The New Zealand side opened the scoring at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on 11 minutes – and in emphatic fashion. Argentinian Mario Barcia registered the first goal of UAE 2018 with a superb long-range strike which found the top corner.
Four minutes later, Team Welly doubled their lead when Andy Bevin played in Aaron Clapham, who coolly slotted into the bottom corner.
Al Ain thought they had reduced the deficit when Caio found the net, but the Brazilian’s goal was disallowed by a Video Assistant Referee decision as a result of a challenge in the build-up.
The Kiwis then made it three when an unmarked Mario Ilich was able to tap in from close range after Henry Cameron’s corner.
Zoran Mamic’s side grabbed one back before the break to cap a goal-laden first half. Spurred on by the home crowd and their first before the break, Al Ain grabbed their second when a low ball across the box from Caio reached Tongo Doumbia, who found the roof off the net.
The host team continued to pile on the pressure and they grabbed their much-coveted equaliser on 85 minutes through substitute Marcus Berg to take the game to extra time.
A penalty shoot-out followed and goalkeeper Khalid Eisa saved Team Wellington’s fifth penalty, taken by Justin Gulley, to advance and set up a meeting with CAF Champions League winners Esperance in the second round on 15 December.