Dubai // In roughly six minutes, everything changed except the manager’s disposition.
Al Dhafra, looking down for the count heading into the final minutes of the game, bounced back with two late goals to down Al Nasr 2-1 on Thursday night and move to the top of the League Cup’s Group B table.
Eder Luis had put the hosts ahead in the 34th minute and Nasr looked good to keep that lead till the end, but Makhete Diop equalised with six minutes remaining on the clock and then Kamel Chafni made it 2-1 a minute later to stun the home fans.
The late turnaround failed to appease the Dhafra coach, Abdullah Misfir, who was scathing in his criticism of the team’s performance.
He did not sound remotely like the winning manager, in fact.
“After the performance in the first half, I did not think we even deserved a draw,” said the former UAE national-team boss. “To be honest, I did not think we would score in this match because we wasted so many opportunities.
“So, based on our performance in the first half, I think we did not deserve to win this game. “We have done a lot of work with the team and I did not see that work being translated on the pitch. So I had to make some changes for the second half, and thankfully the substitutes did a good job. “I am not happy with the performance of the team and we will sit down to discuss the problems we had.”
After a rather uneventful start, when both teams looked clearly short of inspiration, Luis brought the game to life with an impressive finish.
Receiving the ball from Ibrahima Toure, the Brazilian darted into the box, outpacing the Dhafra defenders and creating space before cannoning the ball into the nets. Toure made another dangerous run in the 41st minute, but as he dragged the ball back, Fahad Sabil was left slightly wrong-footed. If not, Nasr would have been up, 2-0.
As has been the norm this season, the pace of the game picked up in the second half and Emmanuel Clottey came very close to equalising for the visitors in the 50th minute, but his shot floated just over the crosspiece. Dhafra came close again in the 83rd minute, but Makhete Diop blasted the ball high.
Seconds later, however, the burly Senegalese, was on target, leaping in front of Helal Saeed to head home Bandar Mohammed’s cross. A minute later, Dhafra were up 2-1 following a comedy of errors in the Nasr defence.
First, Fahad Sabil complete misjudged a high ball and the diminutive Kamel Chafni jumped high across the defender to steal the ball. Next, as Chafni moved to the goal, Mahmoud Darwish wrong-footed himself and the Moroccan calmly chipped the ball over the advancing Nasr keeper Yousuf Abdullah.
Ivan Jovanovic, the Nasr manager, was left to rue those errors. In this regard, he sounded much like Misfir.
“The mistakes made in the last five minutes cost us the points,” Jovanovic said. “I didn’t like the way we played today. We didn’t have any pace in the game. We didn’t have possession.”
Of either the ball, the lead or the match, as it turned out.
AL AIN THROW AWAY POINTS WITH DRAW TO SHARJAH
Al Ain drew 2-2 with visiting Sharjah in Group A and will view it as two points dropped. Alex Brosque had given Quique Sanchez Flores’s side the lead after Ibrahim Diaky had cancelled out Ze Carlos’s penalty. But the Brazilian stepped up to score from the spot again. Ajman remain unbeaten in Group B but were held at home 0-0 by Emirates.