DUBAI // Three is the magic number.
Ibrahima Toure struck a hat-trick on Saturday night to help propel Al Nasr up to third in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) after a dramatic 4-3 win at home to Baniyas.
The Senegalese striker netted twice in the first half, but the relentless visitors twice hit back before he added his third 10 minutes into the second half.
Carlos Munoz thought he had done enough to steal a point for Baniyas, however Eder Oliveira had other ideas and snatched a late winner.
Baniyas had started the evening as the only undefeated side not to be sitting top of the league, but their hopes of adding a third scalp on their travels suffered a set-back as early as the third minute.
In the first attack of the game, Nasr left-back Khalid Ibrahim whipped in a dangerous diagonal and Toure, the gangly striker who joined in the summer from Monaco, rose expertly to flick it on towards the far post.
Mohammed Khalef had been brought in to replace the injured Mohsin Al Hashimi in the Baniyas goal and he had to be on constant alert with Toure’s height causing problems throughout the first half.
Yet it was the visitors – entirely against the run of play – who struck next. An ambitious run from the heart of the defence saw Mohammed Fawzi float a ball out wide to Nawaf Mubarak and his tidy lay-off to Haboush Saleh allowed the Emirati to take two touches and curl the ball past Yousif Abdulla from 20 yards.
Baniyas took confidence from their goal and enjoyed a better spell of possession, but again, before they could get too settled into a rhythm, Nasr regained the lead. Brett Holman, the Australian midfielder, broke down the left side in the 34th minute and squared for Toure, who slotted home from close range.
Nasr appeared comfortable as they looked to reach half-time in command, but Luis Farina, the Argentine on loan from Benfica, epitomised his side’s determination when he bundled Leonardo Lima off the ball and hit a sweet strike across Abdulla just before the break.
The second half saw the visitors start strongly, yet for all their attacking intent their defensive deficiencies let them down once again 10 minutes after the restart.
Holman found Oliveira with a cross-field pass and the Brazilian played a perfect ball across the penalty area and straight into the path of Toure, who finished comfortably to seal his hat-trick.
Ivan Jovanovic, the dour Nasr coach, allowed himself a smile.
The Serbian’s scowl was soon back when his side’s defence went to sleep with 15 minutes remaining and allowed Mohammed Barghash to pick out Munoz at the back post, the Chilean looping a header back across goal and over Abdulla.
Yet in a crazy game the final goal of the evening was left to Oliveira, who slotted past the outrushing Khalef to secure the three points for Nasr and bring his entire bench out in raucous celebration.
SATURDAY’S OTHER GAMES
Al Ahli 4 Emirates 2
Al Ahli’s perfect start to the 2013/14 season continued with victory over Emirates, but it was another late show for Cosmin Olaroiu’s team. Ahli, who now have five wins from as many games and top the table, won their first two matches this season thanks to injury-time strikes. This time, it was two goals in the last four minutes, from Brazilian duo Ciel and Grafite, that gave the Dubai side three points. Eid Baroot’s Emirates had held their own for 86 minutes, with Luiz Enrique giving them a 1-0 lead and German Herrera equalising on 58 minutes after strikes from Grafite and Luis Jimenez.
Al Shaab 2 Al Shabab 1
Struggling Al Shaab shocked second-placed Al Shabab to earn their first points of the season and deny the visitors the chance to close a six-point gap on Ahli. Ali Rabee scored for Shaab on 28 minutes, Carlos Villanueva equalised on half time before Julius Wobay hit the winner on 54 minutes.
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