x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ciel’s double help Al Ahli right the ship

Al Ahli have certainly not looked unbeatable or all-conquering, but they have been getting the job done. They did it again Thursday night, too, in a slightly more emphatic fashion.

Ciel scored twice, including once off a penalty, to lead Al Ahli past Al Nasr. Satish Kumar / The National
Ciel scored twice, including once off a penalty, to lead Al Ahli past Al Nasr. Satish Kumar / The National

AL AHLI 3 AL NASR 1

Al Ahli - Ciel 20’ 40’ (pen), Grafite 62’ Al Nasr - Khamis 45’

Man of the match - Ciel (Al Ahli)

DUBAI // On the eve of Dubai’s oldest derby, the Al Nasr manager Ivan Jovanovic, in a moment of bluster, claimed Al Ahli were not “invincible”.

The Serbian was certainly not trying to prick Ahli’s ego, for he conceded they were a quality side. Instead, he was probably trying to lift the spirits of his beleaguered troops, who were stunned 2-0 by Al Shaab in their last game. He was not entirely wrong, either.

Ahli have certainly not looked unbeatable or all-conquering, but they have been getting the job done. They did it again last night, too, in a slightly more emphatic fashion, defeating Jovanovic’s side 3-1 to stretch their lead to six points at the top of the Arabian Gulf League.

Ciel scored twice for the hosts in the first half, the second through a penalty, and then played provider to help compatriot Grafite get on the scoresheet.

Nasr, who were third in the standings two weeks ago, have now slipped to eighth following their third defeat in succession, though only eight points separate the eight teams below Ahli on the league table.

“Ahli are top of the rankings because they are a very good team,” Jovanovic said afterward. “But you cannot enter a game thinking a team is unbeatable. If we approach a game with that mentality, then how can you expect to win.

“Congratulations to Ahli. They were better than us and it was a fair result.”

Though Ahli won comfortably in the end, Nasr made a promising start with Hassan Mohammed, starting ahead of Ibrahima Toure, trying to make the most of the opportunity. His efforts earned the visitors two early corners, but the clearest chance of the opening 10 minutes came at the other end.

A cross by Ciel found Luis Jimenez in the clear, but the Chilean, perhaps distracted by the Nasr defender’s appeal for an off-side call, shot wide off the target.

Ten minutes later, Ciel put the hosts ahead with a curling right-footer to the far corner.

The Brazilian almost made it 2-0 in the 25th minute with a booming side-volley, but Nasr keeper Ahmed Shambih made a good stop.

Five minutes from the break, Ismail Al Hammadi’s diving skills earned Ahli a penalty.

He fell following the slightest of pushes by Khamis Ahmed and the referee, Yaqoub Qassem, immediately pointed to the spot.

Al Hammadi got up laughing and Ciel converted.

Mahmoud Khamis, Nasr’s new recruit from Al Wahda, pulled one back with a brilliant free-kick just before the break.

In the 62nd minute, however, he gifted the ball to Jimenez in the midfield and the Chilean found Ciel ,who, after drawing the Nasr defence his way, dragged the ball back for Grafite to finish it off.

“We have won a very important game against a very good team,” said Catalin Raducan, Ahli’s stand-in manager.

“We have won three important points, but the more important thing is we played a good game.

“We deserved to win and I congratulate the players for their performance.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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