Al Jazira head coach Damien Hertog felt his side deserved more after their defeat to league leaders Sharjah on Friday night.
Hertog’s side were beaten 3-2 in a close encounter at Sharjah Stadium – a damaging defeat in terms of their chances of Arabian Gulf League title glory.
They went into the game in third place and nine points adrift of the King, with hopes of cutting down the gap to six with a win. But Sharjah instead opened up the gap to 12, while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai’s 3-1 win over Ittihad Kalba saw them jump into second and dump Jazira down to fourth.
Jazira conceded all three goals in the first half, with two coming from the penalty spot courtesy of Igor Coronado as Sharjah went 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes.
Khalfan Mubarak reduced the deficit for Jazira but they found themselves further behind after Sharjah took advantage of Nacer Barazite’s slip to strike again through former Al Wahda man Mohamed Al Shehhi. Fares Juma added a second after half-time for the Pride of Abu Dhabi but despite controlling the game, Hertog’s side could not add to their tally.
While Hertog backs his players to learn from their mistakes, he was satisfied with the team’s work ethic.
“It was a very exciting match as there were a lot of chances and goals,” said Hertog during the post-match press conference.
“The result was not good for us though. We made some mistakes which saw us concede the goals. But mistakes happen and this was not to do with our game strategy. I was pleased with how we got back into the game as well as creating a number of chances.”
He added: “We dominated the game with possession and kept Sharjah’s attackers, who are very skilful, relatively quiet. We knew we had to be at the top of our game against Sharjah and we were as a team as I cannot fault the efforts of the team performance.
But I’m sure the players will learn from their mistakes in time for the next game.”
Hertog also defended Ali Mabkhout’s performance, saying it’s unfair to expect the club’s top-scorer to find the back of the net every week.
“Ali Mabkhout always creates a lot of chances but that didn’t happen today,” added the Dutchman.
“Sharjah had a lot of players behind the ball which made it difficult not just for him but the other players. But Al Jazira is not just about Ali Mabkhout, we have other players in the squad who are really talented and can create chances and score the goals for us.”
Jazira will be back in action on Wednesday, April 4, when they host Al Ain in an Abu Dhabi derby and a game that will likely extinguish any title hopes for the losing team.
Boss Abdulaziz Al Anbari has admitted tension caused by Sharjah’s long wait for Arabian Gulf League glory has heaped on “big pressure”, even though a 3-2 victory against Al Jazira puts the dominant leaders ever closer to an unprecedented unbeaten title success.
Friday’s trio of first-half goals at Khaled bin Mohammed Stadium, of which a third from veteran Mohamed Al Shehhi would prove decisive, helped maintain course for a shock first top-flight triumph since 1995/96.
“Thank God and thank him for the result and our luck against Al Jazira,” said Al Anbari, whose cause was helped by a motivational speech from key midfielder Otabek Shukurov who was seriously injured on Uzbekistan duty during the international break. “We had some difficulties, but we succeeded in exploiting these opportunities and I congratulate my players for both the win and performance.
“There is big pressure in the league due to the fact the team hasn’t won one for many years. This makes us retreat at certain times of the game, and we must be careful not to lose focus in the final minutes.
“Shukurov is a difficult player to compensate for, despite our exit from the Arabian Gulf Cup. But we came out of it positively.”
In the opposite camp, frustration abounded. Jazira conceded two penalties within the first 10 minutes and could not build on ex-UAE centre-back Fares Juma’s 53rd-minute strike to make it 3-2.
“We dominated the game with possession and kept Sharjah’s attackers, who are very skilful, relatively quiet,” said coach Damien Hertog. “We knew we had to be at the top of our game against Sharjah and we were as a team as I cannot fault the efforts of the team performance.
“But am sure the players will learn from their mistakes in time for the next game.”
Sharjah next travel to Ajman on Thursday, while Jazira host second-placed Al Ain on Wednesday.
Al Nasr threw everything at visitors Arsenal and were by far the better side for 45 minutes before succumbing to a 3-2 defeat as they opened their new Al Maktoum Stadium in fine fashion.
The Blue Wave christened their new home in suitable style with a goal fit to grace any game. They’d started brighter and got their reward when Chilean Ronnie Fernandez heated the game up with a sumptuous curling effort that beat a despairing Bernd Leno and went in off the inside of the post.
Arsenal, second best throughout the opening 45 minutes, equalised via Denis Suarez’s exquisite vision. He picked out Carl Jenkinson’s run and after the much-maligned right-back’s first effort cannoned off the upright, he thumped home the rebound.
A raft of changes – all 11 players were replaced at the break by Nasr boss Benat San Jose – seemed excessive given their first half showing. But when Arsenal are in town, everyone wants some of the action and they paid thereafter as Alexandre Lacazette put the Premier League giants 2-1 ahead before Tyreece John-Jules scored the killer third.
The hosts had something to cheer about late on when Rashed Omar was bundled over and Khalid Jalal calmly stroked home to make it 3-2.
Here is our Al Nasr ratings:
AL NASR (4-4-2)
Ahmed Shambieh 6: Flapped at a few crosses and looked a bit nervous, but came out early to deny Lacazette.
Ahmed Ibrahim 7: Typified Nasr’s belief as he got forward to join attacks. Had trouble keeping tabs on Medley and Suarez though.
Masoud Sulaiman 7: Formed a brick wall alongside Oumari as Arsenal struggled. Could have had a goal too, his header blocked by Leno’s knees.
Joan Oumari 6: Lebanon veteran let Lacazette know he was there early on with a clattering challenge. Bossed things at the back otherwise.
Mahmoud Khamis 7: An expressive player and he used this big stage to show us his stuff. Gave Jenkinson a torrid time as he marauded forward.
Junior Dutra 7: Quiet start, surging run down the right led to the opening goal. Showed poise to cut ball back to Fernandez.
Amer Mubarak 7: Thrived against young midfield opponents who were surprised by Nasr’s insurgence and energy.
Tariq Ahmed 7: Tenacious and energetic as ever. Showed brilliant feet to trick Lacazette to get out of a tight situation in his own box.
Alhussain Saleh 8: Nasr were enjoying a lot of joy down both flanks, largely due to the excellent work of the lightening quick Saleh and Dutra.
Alvaro Negredo 7: The Beast lived up to his name, proving a handful for Arsenal’s defence. Couple of early sighters. Wasteful. Could have had a hat-trick…against Arsenal.
Ronnie Fernandez 8: Really good movement up front. Should have scored inside 60 seconds but shot tamely at Leno. A thorn in the side. Opened scoring with a stunning strike.
Mohamed Marzouk 6: Got a slice of the action but had a job patching up an increasingly dishevelled defence.
Yousef Jaber 6: Endured a tough time as Arsenal’s raft of rapid replacements ran Nasr ragged.
Ahmed Jashak 6: Slotted into midfield and even though his side were looking leggy, he pushed forward.
Ali Hussain 6: Tried to pin down an increasingly rampant Gunners’ midfield.
Khalid Jalal 7: A raft of changes made it difficult to maintain any rhythm but he patrolled midfield admirably. Converted his penalty stylishly.
Rashed Omar 7: Good energy in the final third as it crumbled behind him. Bundled over for the late penalty.
Mohamed Bouherrafa 5: Looked off the pace, roasted by Maitland-Niles.
Ibrahim Essa 6: Replaced Shambieh and had a busy outing, helpless for both goals conceded.
Khamis Esmail 6: Surprised to see an Al Wasl player putting on the Nasr blue. Tried to take Cech by surprise with a long-ranger. Wide, but only just.
Saeed Sowaidan 5: Came on and lasted 20 minutes before being forced off.
Mohammed Fawzi 6: Veteran slotted in at right back and didn’t do much wrong.