AUCKLAND - Nerves threatened to derail Auckland City's quest for their third Oceania Club title before a second half penalty set them up for a $500,000 payday at the lucrative FIFA Club World Cup, their coach said on Sunday.
The amateur side from New Zealand's largest city, playing in front of a boisterous crowd at their home ground in Kiwitea Street, achieved a 4-0 win in the second leg of the Oceania Football Confederation club final against Vanuatu's Amicale.
Alex Feneridis, Daniel Koprivcic, whose second half penalty had settled the team down, Manel Exposito and Adam McGeorge all scored to give Auckland a 6-1 aggregate victory after they snatched a 2-1 win in the first leg in Port Vila on April 2.
"There were nervous moments in the first half when the pressure really got to our players and we didn't put our stamp on the match in the first half," Auckland City co-coach Aaron McFarland told Reuters via telephone as his players celebrated noisily in the background.
"To be fair to the players they played it safe and realised it was just a matter of time before we could dominate."
Midfielder Feneridis' crisp right foot volley in the 27th minute had broken the deadlock though it was not until left back Ian Hogg - the former New Zealand under-20 captain - was brought down in the box and Koprivcic blasted the ball high and to the right past Chikau Mansale in the 63rd minute that Auckland settled.
Amicale's composure and shape also deserted them after the penalty as they chased the game.
"When we went to 2-0 it became pretty comfortable," McFarland added. "For anyone looking to chase the game it's tough and you do lose shape and we managed to exploit that and put the game away."
Former Barcelona player Exposito scored a lovely individual goal in the 73rd minute when he broke free and lifted a shot over Mansale to make it 3-0 before he turned provider for McGeorge, who powered a header past the keeper with his first touch of the ball in the 82nd minute.
McFarland said the celebrations of his side, which is mostly made up of university students, were likely to "be off the cuff" on Sunday and that they could be "afforded one morning off" on Monday.
It is the third time Auckland will represent Oceania at the Club World Cup, which is scheduled to be held in Japan in December. They confounded expectations in 2009 when they finished fifth, winning two of their three games.comments