Al Nasr boss Jovanovic defiant despite poor run of results ahead of AFC Champions League return

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Danger man: Al Nasr defender Khalifa Mubarak (l) will need to keep a closer eye on Sepahan striker Chimba (r) after his two-goal performance last week.

Al Nasr boss Ivan Jovanovic has declared he is not feeling worried about his position despite Tuesday’s AFC Champions League return with Sepahan coming amid a nightmare run.

A double from Brazilian striker Chimba saw the Persian Gulf Pro League champions claim a fully merited 2-0 victory in last week’s Group A opener. This result is one of four defeats suffered by the deposed President’s Cup holders in their last six matches.

Another reversal at Al Maktoum Stadium to the Iranians will only increase the disquiet, though the 53-year-old remained steadfast when quizzed about job security.

He said: “If your question is whether I am under pressure because of results, then every coach who doesn’t have good results is under pressure. But if you mean I feel pressure about my positon as Al Nasr coach, I do not have this problem and I do not feel like this.

“When one team doesn’t have good results, you can find 1,000 reasons to criticise everyone.

“But what is important for me is that I work with good players and good guys, which I believe in.

“This is my team, I work with them. If anyone has responsibilities about the team, it is me.”

Sharjah inflicted an embarrassing 5-4 loss on Saturday to see the Blue Wave’s defence of the UAE’s premier cup competition end in the first round.

This means only a top-three finish in the Arabian Gulf League is likely to secure ACL football again next term, a position they are clinging on to after fourth-placed Al Wasl drew level with them on 33 points.

“Of course, we are at a time where our team does not have good results,” Jovanovic continued.

“This can happen in football.

“We need to believe we are a good team and fight back.

“It is not only good results which make a good team. Also, when bad results happen it is about how teams can respond and come back from these results.”

Contrasting emotions can be found in the Sepahan camp. Former Derby County and West Ham United defender Igor Stimac’s team snapped an 11-match winless spell last week when the sides met at Fooladshahr Stadium.

Despite the differences in form, the Croatian coach warned of a Blue Wave backlash if their “world class players” are shown too much respect.

He said: “We are not building up too many positives from the results of Al Nasr.

“We know Nasr are very serious opponent, who are a very well organised club with good players.

“(Nasr) receiving five goals at the weekend will not take us in the wrong direction. This game will be totally different.

“Nasr have world-class players in their team. Give them time and space, you will be hurt.

“We need to be very organised, as we were in the first game and work as a team. And that is what we are working on.”

One of those “world-class players” who will be unavailable is Chile playmaker Luis Jimenez, who is expected to miss the next few weeks with a hamstring complaint.

Team-mate and recent UAE callup Ahmed Al Yassi was focused on gaining a vital victory in Dubai.

“The upcoming match is a new challenge for us,” the right-back said. “We know Sepahan has three
points and (Group A rivals) Al Ittihad and Lokomotiv Tashkent have one point.

“Winning this game will help us to get out of the group stage. Only a win will be our target in this match.

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Ten Cate delights at Jazira President's Cup progress

Matt Jones 29/02/2016
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Moving in right direction: Ten Cate.

Al Jazira head coach Henk ten Cate was happy to progress to the quarter-finals of the President’s Cup, but felt his side wasted a lot of chances to make their 1-0 win against Al Dhafra more comfortable.

The Pride of Abu Dhabi were second best in a first half dominated by Dhafra, but were guilty of missing a glut of second half chances to put the game to bed, with Kenwyne Jones and Thiago Neves each squandering golden opportunities.

“It was a tough game for us to be in, but we could have decided it earlier if we’d scored two or three more goals. We had so many big chances,” said the Dutchman, who admitted that a fifth win domestically in a row has made for a great atmosphere around the club.

“We have won the last five games so we are in a good spell. Team spirit is high. The defence is getting better and better and I’m very happy we didn’t concede a goal today. It was a good test for us because Dhafra has a physically strong team and I think we did well.”

Opposite number Mohamad Kwid also bemoaned a string of missed chances by his team, but was more unhappy that their appeals for a spot kick in the second half were ignored by the referee.

“It is the first time I speak about the referee,” said Kwid. “Makhete Diop has a clear penalty but the referee didn’t give it. This is football and we have to accept it.”

Dhafra midfielder Abdulla Al Naqbi was equally incensed and said: “Dhafra played better than Jazira. I don’t want to talk about the referee, but he gave Jazira a penalty, but he did not give the penalty against Makhete Diop.”

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Mabkhout penalty the difference as Al Jazira beat Al Dhafra

Matt Jones 29/02/2016
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It was not exactly the swashbuckling response Henk ten Cate might have hoped for following a 4-0 humbling by Tractor Sazi in their AFC Champions League opener four days previously, but a place in the last eight will suffice.

The game bucked the trend of the opening weekend of the President’s Cup, which had seen goals galore, with 40 netted at 5.7 per game in seven previous matches.

Just one was enough in the final round-of-16 match, Jazira’s victory coming courtesy star man Ali Mabkhout, who nonchalantly slotted home a first-half penalty.

The game hinged, however, on another penalty that was not awarded to Dhafra in the second half.

Bustling Senegal forward Makhete Diop wanted one in the 68th minute when he slalomed between Jazira centre-backs Musallem Fayez and Fares Juma.

He was brought down by the latter’s leg, but referee Mohammed Obaid Khadim waved away Dhafra’s vehement calls when he should have instead pointed to the spot.

The tale of the game was also one of two contrasting halves, a first in which Jazira opened the scoring very much against the run of play, but dominated the second and should have added to their lead.

The Western Knights, scrapping for their lives near the foot of the Arabian Gulf League table, dominated possession and chances in the opening 45 minutes, with Diop’s header crossing the line although the linesman’s flag came to Jazira’s rescue.

Mohamad Kwid’s side really should have led, Abdulla Al Naqbi going so close to breaking the deadlock when he advanced through midfield and unleashed a 30-yard rocket that had Ali Khaseif well beaten, as well as the crossbar, just.

He then missed a gilt-edge chance three minutes later when he skied Diop’s cut-back over the bar.

Sultan Al Shamsi had earlier missed a good chance for Jazira, firing well over when found in space by the lively Thiago Neves.

Having not taken their chances, there seemed a certain inevitability about the opener five minutes before the break.

Striker Kenwyne Jones was inexplicably pushed to the ground by midfielder Adil Hermach, Mabkhout was calmness personified as he trotted up to the spot and calmly swept into the bottom left corner.

The goal was number 16 of the season for the in-form 25-yearold and would go on to help Jazira record a fifth win under Ten Cate.

His side were far better after the interval, Park Jong-woo, Neves and Mabkhout all threatening a second within minutes of the restart.

The fragility of their lead was emphasised in the 57th minute when Diop played in Syrian team-mate Omar Khrbin. His first effort was brilliantly blocked by Khaseif and his second was going in until Yaqoub Al

Hosani’s goal-line clearance.

Dhafra’s penalty claim came and went but after that Jazira were fairly comfortable, Jones and Neves particularly guilty of failing to put the game to bed.

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