Football: Team Wellington suffer heartbreaking loss at FIFA Club World Cup

Team Wellington have bowed out of the FIFA Club World Cup in agonising fashion, blowing a three-goal lead against UAE champions Al Ain and eventually losing in a penalty shootout.

The defeat sees the Oceania representatives fail to make the main draw of the tournament, hosted by the United Arab Emirates.

Wellington snatched the lead in the 11th minute, when Argentine Mario Barcia fired from outside the penalty area and found the net with a blistering strike.

Four minutes later, Aaron Clapham slotted another past Al Ain goalie Khalid Aisa and just before half-time, Mario Ilich stretched the margin to three, when he was left unmarked on the far post from a corner.

But the home side began their fightback with goals either side of the break from Tsukasa Shiotani and Tongo Doumbia, before finally drawing even in the 85th minutre, through Marcus Berg. 

Al Ain celebrate their penalty shootout win
Al Ain celebrate their penalty shootout win. Photo credit: Reuters.

The rivals played an extra 30 minutes, without producing the winning goal, before a nervewracking shootout. Wellington took an early lead, when Al Ain missed their second attempt, but then missed their next as well.

The outcome came down to Wellington's fifth and final penalty attempt, taken by Justin Gulley, which was parried away by Aisa for victory.

"To put everything into context, the resouces we have and who we are, to put in a performance like that against a world-class team is sensational," said Wellington coach Jose Figuera afterwards.

"I have to apologise to my players, because I put them through hell. I asked for a tremendous amount and today's probably the most they've ever given.

"We took them to the wire - it wasn't to be today, but when the dust settles, they'll be hungry to come back to this stage and prove themselves again."

Wellington qualified for the tournament as NZ national league champions, who then took out the Oceania club title.

They needed to beat Al Ain to qualify for the tournament's main draw and a chance to face African champions Esperance Sportive de Tunis.

Four years ago, Auckland City progressed as far as the semi-finals, before losing to San Lorenzo of Argentina, who eventually lost to Real Madrid in the final. Auckland City beat Morocco's Moghreb Tetouan on penalties for third.