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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 January 2019

Justin Gulley proud of Team Wellington despite Fifa Club World Cup heartbreak against Al Ain

The amateur side were on target for a famous victory when they led by three goals, but they were eventually beaten in a penalty shoot-out in the play-off tie

Team Wellington's captain Justin Gulley missed the decisive penalty against Al Ain. AFP
Team Wellington's captain Justin Gulley missed the decisive penalty against Al Ain. AFP

Team Wellington captain Justin Gulley said his team could be proud of their efforts at the Fifa Club World Cup, despite letting slip a three-goal lead to Al Ain as they were knocked out of the competition on Wednesday.

They had been three up after 44 minutes, but the Arabian Gulf League champions hit back to level and take the game to extra time and then a penalty shoot-out.

There both Angus Kilkolly and Gulley had their spot-kicks saved by Khalid Essa as the home side prevailed 4-3.

Gulley admitted his emotions were mixed between disappointment and pride as he reflected on the amateur side's performance.

“I missed that crucial penalty and that will stick on me for a long time,” said the 25 year old.

“But we can’t take away what we achieved tonight. There’s a lot of respect between the two teams now.”

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Al Ain had been expected to breeze past the Wellington challenge, but instead the New Zealanders troubled their hosts with their attacking endeavour, and Mario Barcia, Aaron Clapham and Mario Ilich all found the net.

Although they could not keep it up, Gulley said he and his teammates could take satisfaction from almost springing a major upset.

“Al Ain are such a strong and attacking team, we knew that. We had three goals under our belt and the boys were pretty confident while Al Ain were on pins,” he said.

“They are a multi-dollar team with three stadiums and we are just an amateur outfit, so to do that, the boys must feel proud of themselves.

“To have led 3-0 and lose the game at the end was really hard to take. Everyone knows that but that’s how it goes.

“Obviously scoring three goals was massive for us. I don’t think they were probably expecting that, and I don’t think anyone probably expected that, to be honest. So to do that was a huge achievement.”

Gulley believes the goal Al Ain scored on the stroke of half time as the turning point of the game.

“They just needed that goal before half time,” he said. “It was massive for them. If we could have held them until half time it would have been a huge task for them, mentally as well.

“Had we able to do that, the game could have gone our way. That goal gave them a massive boost going in to half time.

“Not to say that we were not confident. They still needed two goals, three goals, that was a huge task for them.

“I think the experience definitely showed. But we are immensely proud and showed everyone what we can do."

Al Ain now face Esperance de Tunis on Saturday for a place in the semi-finals and Gulley believes Wednesday's experience will stand Zoran Mamic's side in good stead.

“They will definitely not take any team lightly after the game against us and I think they have a lot of talent in their squad to do that,” he said.

Updated: December 13, 2018 12:50 PM

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