Al Nasr coach Ivan Jovanovic insists his players still “have to suffer” if they are to reach the AFC Champions League’s last-four for the first time despite securing an incredible 3-0 away win at El Jaish.
A brace from summer-buy Wanderley on debut and an excellent skimming drive from Jonathan Pitroipa in Doha ensured the knockout stage debutants are redhot favourites to proceed when the teams reconvene on September 14.
Despite this incredible start to the new season, boss Jovanovic preached that his charges must keep pushing at Al Maktoum Stadium regardless of their three-goal advantage.
He said: “The problem with playing in the quarter-final is the timing, you have to face many elements as you do not know everything about your team.
“It is very difficult for both teams to understand where they are with their performance as there are no official games before this. On the other hand, the target of reaching the semi-final is huge. All of us will have to suffer to be there.”
In front of a sparsely-attended Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium which contained far fewer fans than the official figure of 5,120, the Blue Wave excelled from the off.
Wanderley first tapped into an open goal just before half-time, with Pitroipa slotting into the bottom corner prior to the hour mark. The former-mentioned summer addition from Sharjah then stroked home from close range to send the travelling ‘Nasrawy’ and technical staff into dreamland on 85 minutes.
“Of course it was a very good result for us after a very good game,” added Jovanovic, who previously led Cypriot minnows APOEL into the same stage of the UEFA Champions League. “El Jaish also during the game had some chances but they couldn’t score a goal. But the difference in the game was the time in which we scored the goals.
“It was a difficult game for both teams in very difficult weather conditions. What was most difficult was keeping a good pace throughout the whole game.
“Maybe we have a small advantage from the game. But in Dubai, it will be very decisive for who can go through into the semi-finals. We will face the second game in our home in the same way and we hope during this 15 days we will prepare for an even-better performance.”
Opposite number Sabri Lamouchi was understandably crestfallen during his post-match press conference. This was a huge blow after dominating Group B and blitzing neighbours Lekhiwya in the round of 16.
“I do not know what happened,” the ex-France midfielder said. “We are really disappointed.
“Of course, it is a very-bad result at home. We started not so good, but after half an hour we came back.
“We missed a lot in both halves. Not just the positioning, but a lot of mistakes.
“Nasr scored all their opportunities. We had maybe more opportunities, but this is football.
“It was a very-bad night, game and result. Nothing is impossible in football, but honestly it will not be easy. “We must play with a different attitude and miss less.”
Helder Barbosa, 29, arrived in Dubai late on Tuesday to undergo medical examinations and complete the switch.
His arrival bolsters new coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s squad with a player who has scored an impressive 15 goals during 68 appearances since being snapped up on a free transfer in July 2014 after leaving Braga.
“Al Wasl announces they have signed a contract with Portuguese player Helder Barbosa for two seasons,” the Cheetahs tweeted yesterday.
“Contact talks with the player began two weeks ago and were led by board member Walid Al Shaibani. They ended when the player passed a medical examination.”
The ex-Porto starlet will form part of a fluid attacking quartet alongside retained Brazilians Fabio De Lima and Caio Canedo, plus fellow fresh face Ronaldo Mendes.
His new team have also made 10 Emirati additions this summer, including Al Ahli centre midfielder Humaid Abbas.
Al Ain would have blown Lokomotiv Tashkent away during Tuesday night’s goalless 2016 AFC Champions League quarter-final opener if their preparations hadn’t been hampered by a club v country row, according to frustrated coach Zlatko Dalic.
The unrehearsed Boss kicked off their 2016/17 commitments at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium amid the backdrop of their seven-strong UAE contingent spending only 10 days with them after early release from an international training camp failed to materialise.
This lack of sharpness was apparent against well-oiled opponents who, in contrast, are midway through their domestic season and wasted two glaring chances through winger Sardor Mirzayev.
“I don’t want to cry or find excuses,” said Dalic, who will hope for an improved display during the return match on September 13 in Uzbekistan.
“OK, we will try our best with this situation. I must believe in a good result and success. This is not a good time for me. I am not happy, I am responsible for everything here but there is nothing I can do.
“If I’d had my players for a month, I guarantee we would have scored three goals tonight.”
The situation isn’t likely to vastly improve in time for the second leg at Bunyodkor Stadium.
Finally all together in training,thank God!— Zlatko Dalic (@DalicZlatko) August 13, 2016
Dalic’s Whites players head to Shanghai on Thursday where the squad is convening ahead of September 1’s daunting trip to Japan and September 6’s visit of Australia, as the third-and-final round of World Cup 2018 qualifying gets under way.
The Croatian’s remaining players will play two friendlies and two Arabian Gulf Cup games in the interim.
Despite these hurdles, the 49-year-old remained sanguine.
He said: “I have to be happy with how my team played tonight. We had control and possession, but we just missed a goal.
“We tried throughout the game to have control. We had good opportunities to score, but sometimes we were unlucky and other times we didn’t concentrate.
“We had a good game, but we didn’t win or score a goal – 0-0 is a good result for us from this match. The result is open and we have a chance for everything when we play them again.”