Home Sports Al Ittihad triumphs in rain-soaked opener against Auckland City at Club World Cup

Al Ittihad triumphs in rain-soaked opener against Auckland City at Club World Cup

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Al Ittihad triumphs in rain-soaked opener against Auckland City at Club World Cup

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Arabian Weekly report

JEDDAH — Al Ittihad inaugurated its journey in the FIFA Club World Cup in Jeddah in the best possible way, presenting a remarkable performance in the opening match against New Zealand’s Auckland City, triumphing with a three-goal lead that propelled them into the second round of the tournament. This victory sets up an Arab clash with their Egyptian rival, Al Ahly, on the upcoming Friday.

Amidst an amazing fan presence and under rainy conditions, the FIFA Club World Cup football competition opened in Jeddah following a spectacular ceremony at King Abdullah Sports City just minutes before Al Ittihad vs. Auckland City match on Tuesday.

The opening ceremony was highlighted by fireworks, laser, and lights, with seven banners announcing the participating teams and the phrase “Welcome Champions” displayed on the field.

The tournament includes teams like Al Ittihad, the champions of the host nation’s Saudi league, Auckland City, Al Ahly from Egypt as the African champions, Brazil’s Fluminense as Copa Libertadores champions, Mexico’s Club Leon as the champions of North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF), Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds as Asian champions, and Manchester City from Europe, the prime contenders for the title.

Al Ittihad’s fans created a fantastic atmosphere in the stands, continuously chanting and providing significant moral support for their team in the opening match.

Karim Benzema led the Ittihad lineup against Auckland, with coach Marcelo Gallardo preferring the 35-year-old French striker, backed by Romarinho and Igor Coronado, while striker Abderrazak Hamdallah was absent for injury. Gallardo made several changes to the lineup that lost to Damac in last week’s league match.

Egyptian defender Ahmed Hegazi returned to lead Al Ittihad’s defense alongside Hassan Kadesh, Zakaria Hawsawi, and Muhannad Al Shanqeeti, with Brazilian goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe.

N’Golo Kanté, who won the tournament with Chelsea in 2021, Brazilian Fabinho, the 2019 winner with Liverpool, and Faisal Al-Ghamdi led Al Ittihad midfield.

Brazilian Romarinho opened the scoring for Al Ittihad in the 29th minute with a powerful shot from outside the box. Frenchman Kanté added the second goal in the 35th minute in a fantastic manner, exploiting a rebound from the New Zealand goalkeeper to shoot directly into the net.

In the 40th minute, Frenchman Karim Benzema scored Al Ittihad’s third goal after a precise cross from Muhannad Al Shanqeeti, finding himself directly in front of the net to mark his fourth time scoring in the tournament, and becoming the first player in its history to score in four different editions – 2014, 2016, and 2022 with Real Madrid and 2023 with Al Ittihad.

Al Ittihad didn’t add any more goals in the second half of the match; the New Zealand team intensified its defensive barriers, while Al Ittihad’s coach Gallardo seemed focused on conserving energy in anticipation of the upcoming popular clash against Al Ahly.

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