Al Wahda are finally beginning to see the best of Hungary captain Balazs Dzsudzsak after a difficult start to life in the Emirates, according to Clarets team-mate Sebastian Tagliabue.
The 29-year-old former PSV and Dynamo Moscow forward was signed from Turkey’s Bursaspor in August following an impressive Euro 2016 campaign for his country – during which he scored two spectacular goals in a thrilling 3-3 draw with eventual champions Portugal.
However, a combination of missing the majority of pre-season with the Al Nahyan outfit, arriving during the stifling UAE summer and being away on World Cup 2018 qualifying duty with Hungary have led to underwhelming performances at club level.
But after following up his first Clarets goal in a 2-1 defeat to Al Wasl a week ago with another in Friday’s 5-1 thrashing of Al Nasr, Wahda’s lethal marksman Tagliabue believes his new team-mate’s undoubted talent is starting to shine through.
“I think now he is 85/90 per cent adapted,” said the Argentine frontman, whose second goal against the Blue Wave also arrived courtesy of a Dzsudzsak assist.
“He has to adapt to everything; the team, the coach, the weather. Also he needs confidence and I think from the last game against Wasl and today he has got a lot of confidence. Also he has scored two goals and this is very good for him.”
Also telling in Friday’s morale-boosting victory against struggling Nasr was the fact it was the first time Dzsudzsak completed 90 minutes for his new side, having played 60, 68, 45, 45 and been an unused substitute in his previous five games.
After a dour opening half, the game burst into life in the second period with both Dzsudzsak and Chilean Jorge Valdivia at their creative best, while several of Wahda’s youngsters also shone, like Mohamed Al Akbari, Mohammed Al Menhali and Khalid Bawazir.
Former Chelsea right-back Dan Petrescu will arrive in Dubai today to take over at Arabian Gulf League strugglers Al Nasr following the dismissal of Ivan Jovanovic.
Former Romania international Petrescu, 48, had been in line for the role prior to Serbian Jovanovic taking the helm at Al Maktoum Stadium in June 2013, with a €12 million (Dh60m) release clause in his contract at Dynamo Moscow proving a stumbling block three years ago.
But the Blue Wave took to Twitter yesterday to announce that Jovanovic had been sacked and an agreement reached with former Jiangsu Suning and Al Arabi coach Petrescu to replace him following an atrocious start to the season.
The nightmare unfolded after a 3-0 first leg AFC Champions League quarter-final triumph against Qatar’s El Jaish in August was reversed following the revelation that summer signing Wanderley had been playing with a “forged or falsified” Indonesian passport.
Since then Nasr have gone on to lose six of their next 10 games in all competitions, including four in a row in the AGL, to lie ninth.
Friday’s 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Al Wahda was the final straw and 54-year-old Jovanovic was given his marching orders yesterday.
“Dan Petrescu will arrive in Dubai today and will be taking charge of training,” Nasr press officer Mohamed Mubarak told Sport360, adding that the 95-times capped defender will be officially unveiled at a press conference on Tuesday.
“The board took the decision to sack Ivan Jovanovic following a lot of meetings to discuss the club’s poor form in the league in recent weeks.
“During those meetings the board made a decision that Ivan Jovanovic could not continue to achieve the league objectives of the board this season.
“Another meeting took place with the coach following the Al Wahda defeat, in which the situation was discussed with the coach, and a decision was taken today after last night’s result.”
It’s a sad end to what had been a largely fruitful stint at Nasr for two-time former APOEL supremo Jovanovic.
He ended a 25-year trophy drought at Al Maktoum Stadium in May 2014 when he led the Blue Wave to the GCC Club Cup with a 4-2 aggregate win in the final against Oman’s Saham.
He followed that with an Arabian Gulf Cup and President’s Cup-double a year later – Nasr beating Sharjah 4-1 and Al Ahli 3-0 on penalties respectively.
Jovanovic is reportedly a candidate to replace UAE boss Mahdi Ali if a poor result in the Whites’ 2018 World Cup qualifier against Iraq next month leads to his sacking.
Clarets talisman Sebastian Tagliabue netted a hat-trick but the game hinged on a controversial decision by referee Sultan Abdurazzaq not to award the Blue Wave a clear penalty just past the hour mark after Rim Chang-woo handled in the box.
It was obvious to the Nasr bench, who had seen their side equalise six minutes earlier. Six minute after Abdurazzaq’s decision the game was over as two goals in three minutes from the hosts killed the game off and ramped up the pressure on coach Ivan Jovanovic, while easing concerns over Aguirre’s future in the capital.
“I’m happy for the fans because they deserve the first win of the season at home,” said the Mexican, who knew the scoreline flattered his side.
“In the score it was 5-1 but it was not that easy, there was not much between the sides and we were 1-1 until 25 minutes to go. It was a tough game.”
The former Atletico Madrid coach was happy with a result that eased the tension after a 2-1 defeat to Al Wasl the previous week.
“The defeat to Al Wasl was terrible,” he added. “We had more than 20 shots, 10 corner kicks and crossed the ball 15 times. Today the difference was we were really accurate. Five good balls and five goals, three points. Sometimes we are good in front of goal and sometimes we miss. Today we were played a good offensive game.”
Under fire counterpart Jovanovic, meanwhile, apologised for the margin of defeat.
“I want to say sorry for our fans for this result,” said the Serbian. “We had a good 10 minutes after the equaliser and an opportunity to score another which could have changed the game. But that didn’t happen and then Wahda scored twice within two minutes that put my players under pressure.
“It was very disappointing result. We are in a difficult position and now we want to see how best we can come out of this situation.”
One goal would have been appreciated by those inside Al Nahyan Stadium after a dire first half, although it was perhaps unsurprising the opening 45 minutes was so dull considering both sides have mustered just two wins from eight games between them prior to kick-off
Neither side seemed willing to overcommit to attacking, for fear they might leave themselves exposed at the back.
A turgid opening half was forgotten less than four minutes into the second period when the hosts broke the deadlock through a familiar hero. Tagliabue was released by right-back Mohammed Al Menhali’s inch-perfect throughball and he kept his cool to clip high into the net beyond Abdullah Mohammed.
The Argentine – last season’s AGL top scorer – should have made it two when Suhail Al Mansoori’s lofted ball found him in space. He rounded Mohammed but his tame shot strike Khalifa Mubarak’s heel.
The visitors made Wahda pay two minutes later when Iraqi striker Mohannad Abdulraheem netted his first goal since arriving from Al Zawra’a, rising to nod Fawaz Awana’s pin-pont cross beyond Ali Al Hosani.
The came the key moment. South Korea international Rim ushered the ball out for a corner with his arm but the official was unmoved.
Abdulraheem had a second goal rightly ruled out for offside but Wahda restored their lead when Tagliabue glanced in Balasz Dzsudzsak’s cross.
Three minutes later the Hungarian, who’s had a tough start to life in the Emirates, slid in to net from left-back Ahmed Rashid’s cross.
It was his second goal in two games and his relief was obvious as he high-fived every single member of the home bench.
Al Hosani palmed away Abdelaziz Barrada’s fine effort before Wahda sealed the win in style.
Reigning AGL Young Player of the Year Mohamed Al Akbari collected Tagliabue’s flick-on before powering down the line and delivering a brilliant cross for the Argentine to head home his hat-trick goal.
The youngster completed a fine cameo when he raced onto Jorge Valdivia’s pass and fired beyond Mohammed to make it a mauling.