Ambition can have an awful effect on a football match.
This was the case on Saturday night as Arabian Gulf League-title hopefuls Al Nasr and Al Wahda played out a bitty 0-0 draw dominated by the fear of losing.
Far more fouls were committed than chances created, the brain-dead dismissal of Clarets right-back Mohamed Al Menhali for two bookings within six first-half minutes bogging down an already-insipid game.
The lack of attacking dynamism was all encompassing at Al Maktoum Stadium. The sight of the top flight’s joint-leading marksman Sebastian Tagliabue tripping over his own feet early in the second period when played clean through by visiting playmaker Jorge Valdivia neatly summed up the low-grade entertainment.
The latter appeared hopelessly jet lagged, standing in the centre circle awaiting fouls following his Friday return from Chile duty.
“These kind of game Valdivia has to play in, we pay him to make the difference against big teams,” boss Javier Aguirre explained.
“It has been a really-hard beginning, but in the last two games I had good feelings.
“Like the Tour de France, we are in the middle of the climb.”
Nasr came into the round leading the table, but have now registered two momentum-sapping stalemates in a row. There was more of an excuse for their numerically-disadvantaged opponents, undoubtedly pleased with four points registered from successive matches against AGL champions Al Ain and the double-cup holders.
The pressure of the game appeared to infect Al Menhali. He was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card for petulantly backhanding Jires Kembo Ekoko, receiving his marching orders on 34 minutes for recklessly diving at the Blue Wave forward’s feet on the touchline.
Home boss Ivan Jovanovic bemoaned a lack of composure for the failure to make the most of his error.
He said: “We had the advantage of an extra player, but we could not make the most of it.
“We rushed to play and we did not create organised attacks. What is very important is that we have to improve our game so we can get big results in the coming weeks.”
— AL Nasr Club (@ALNasrSC) October 17, 2015
The numerical advantage made little difference to proceedings, rampaging left-back Mahmoud Khamis stinging UAE stand-in goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani’s feet with a 30-yard drive as Wahda dug in.
Nasr’s lack of incision continued into the second half, though two good chances were crafted after Tagliabue’s stumble at the other end.
AWOL striker Ibrahima Toure’s absence continued to be felt, replacement Nilmar making it to five scoreless AGL appearances when embarrassingly failing to connect with a teasing Khamis centre.
Still Jovanovic declined to let his troops free, playmaker Luis Jimenez opportunistically hitting the crossbar in injury time when chasing down a loose ball.
Much more is needed from both to make Al Ain and Al Ahli feel threatened.