A goal by Toshihiro Aoyama edged Sanfrecce Hiroshima past a gallant Auckland City 1-0 at the FIFA Club World Cup in Yokohama in the early hours of Friday morning.
The long range strike by Aoyama past Tamati Williams on 58 minutes extinguished the flames of an Auckland upset that began to flicker after an inspired performance by Auckland City goalkeeper who pulled off a series of saves to keep the Oceania Champions in the match.
Coach Ramon Tribulietx was philosophical in defeat.
"We've got players who work eight hours a day but we definitely have to go full time if we want to make it into the final stages of the Club World Cup.
"But I want us to keep our heads up. We showed with our facilities and our structure that we can present a good image of New Zealand football and I think we can be happy with that," he said.
The amateur Auckland City outfit were supposed to be cannon-fodder for the J-League winners but defended compactly, with discipline and in numbers with Angel Berlanga and captain Ivan Vicelich outstanding in the heart of defence, and Williams making some very sharp saves in each half.
Surviving on 45% possession at times, Auckland still managed to trouble Hiroshima, especially in a second half more even than the first.
Front runner Adam Dickinson provided a solid outlet for Auckland's counter attacks while the hard work of Manel Exposito and substitute Luis Corrales especially, provided some testing moments for Hiroshima's fullbacks.
Auckland's best chance came at the end of the second half when Auckland City opened up the Hiroshima defence only to fire a shot wide of goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa from inside penalty area.
Hiroshima had several chances with Mihael Mikic a constant threat down the right.
Takuya Iwata nearly deflected into his own net but for a reaction stop by Williams. Williams pulled off more excellent saves including one off the line just prior to Aoyama's stunning and decisive goal.
Head coach Ramon Tribulietx said the closeness of the result put paid to questions over Oceania representation in FIFA's elite club competition.
"I think we have to be very happy with the way we played. Don't forget we're an amateur side and playing Hiroshima in Japan is very hard for us.
"We competed even to the very end and when we went 0-1 down we suited back up and even had a chance to equalise right at the end," he said, "We are defeated but we can keep our heads really high."
Sanfrecce Hiroshima now faces a FIFA Club World Cup quarter final on Sunday with Egypt's Al-Ahly with a semi-final date with Corinthians awaiting the winner.