FORMER Bala Town defender John Irving scored the only goal of the game as Auckland City reached the FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals on Sunday.
Three days after winning the Play-off for the quarter-finals, the Kiwis beat Entente Sportive Setifienne of Algerua in Rabat, Morocco.
Auckland found their goal shortly after the break through an unlikely source when a corner found its way through a crowded box to Irving, who calmly touched it around his defender and found the near corner past goalkeeper Khedairia’s outstretched fingertips.
Liverpudlian Irving, 25, was a consistent member of Everton's reserves and was named player of the year two seasons running after being handed the captain's armband in February 2007.
Released from Goodison in June 2009 he joined Bala at the end of August and made 104 full appearances for the Lakesiders, scoring the crucial play-off goal that took the club into Europe for the first time, before leaving for New Zealand in May 2013.
It is the second time that Irving has represented Auckland in the FIFA competition, making his debut a year ago shortly after joining the club.
His long term goal is to Irving is to achieve naturalisation in New Zealand, with the possibility of representing the All Whites.
"This is another level," Irving said after collecting his man of the match award. "When I got released by Everton it did kill me. I was there from the age of five until 20 and it was all I ever dreamed of, so to get that taken away was heartbreaking.
"Then I was playing in Wales for four years where I loved the club Bala Town, because they were unbelievable.
"But I needed another step up to progress when I was 24 or 25, and one of my mates from Everton, Steve Morison, called me from New Zealand and said I should come and play.
"Steve said there might be an opportunity to get into the A-League, so I played with a team called Ngaruawahia United and after a couple of games Auckland City saw me and asked me to go along.
"I can’t believe how far we’ve got. I’m so proud of everybody and I think we’ve thoroughly deserved it."
Now only Argentina’s San Lorenzo stand between Irving and a clash with Real Madrid in the final!