Life is good right now for Zlatko Dalic and Al Ain.
The Croatian’s confident charges looked every inch 2016 AFC Champions League finalists Sunday night, with the midweek success at Qatar’s El Jaish providing inspiration rather than distraction upon the return to domestic matters in the engrossing 2-1 win at Al Nasr.
“From my side, first half was fantastic,” Dalic said. “I was very afraid of this match, but my team were fantastic.
“It was maybe the best game in a long time.”
Fortune was also on their side against opponents in a deep rut. Occasional UAE left-back Mahmoud Khamis first missed a penalty, before his rushed clearance smashed into team-mate Khalid Jalal’s face for the slapstick winner which maintained the visitors’ 100-per-cent start in the Arabian Gulf League.
This is the dispiriting situation faced by the Blue Wave, who added much to a particularly-absorbing first half.
Since the passport farrago with Wanderley which followed August’s stellar Asian opening at Jaish, five defeats from nine subsequent matches have killed all enthusiasm.
Another negative result cannot be countenanced at fellow crisis club Al Wahda, if coach Ivan Jovanovic is given the chance to limp on.
“It was not a very good game from our side,” the diminutive Serbian said. “We need to work more to put our selfishness in the game more, to try more so we can hope to have better results in the future.”
Nasr must have feared the worst early on when exciting Boss summer buy Caio – who collected a second booking at the death – artfully cut through their defence and slammed in a seventh goal in 12 games, with the help of the post.
A shot at parity was then blown when Khamis missed from 12 yards. But Morocco playmaker Abdelaziz Barrada soon conjured another rasping free-kick after his goal against Al Wasl to level.
The preceding Bur Dubai derby was also lost and Jalal’s remarkable own goal on 23 minutes then proved to be the decider.
The second half went by in a blur. It was detailed by UAE forward Salem Saleh’s ballooned effort from five yards and Iraq forward Mohannad Abdulraheem’s debut for the hosts, plus Caio’s late dismissal.
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