x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Asian Champions League comes into view for Al Nasr

Al Nasr kept alive their hopes of playing in Asia next season after a lone-goal win over Al Wasl at home

Al Nasr 1 // Al Wasl 0

DUBAI // Al Nasr kept alive their hopes of playing in Asia next season after a lone-goal win over Al Wasl at home last night.

Denied by the post three times, Ali Abbas finally found the net for the home side in the 80th minute to give them a well-deserved three points, which takes their tally to 32 points and places them in third behind Al Jazira and Baniyas with only one round still to play.

Wasl and Al Shabab are a point behind on 31, while Al Wahda follow on 30.

The title has already been decided, and Baniyas are locked in for second, but the final two spots in the Champions League are still up for grabs and both teams are in the running.

The top three in the Pro League gain automatic entry into group play in the 2012 continental tournament, and the fourth-place finisher will have a chance to qualify into group play.

Nasr and Wasl started earnestly, but the energy-sapping weather and the lack of support from the stands did not allow for inspiring football. The players, however, did not lack in effort.

Alexandre Oliveira, whose contract with Al Wasl finishes at the end of this season, made the first real breakthrough, darting down the left in the seventh minute and then squeezed a cross between the two chasing defenders. Francisco Yeste got to the end of the ball, but his left-footer was shot straight into Helal Saeed.

Salem Khamis, who is on loan from Al Ahli but could make a permanent switch to Nasr during the summer, made a similar run at the other end in the 16th minute, but the burly Wasl defender Mohammed al Shaibah headed it away.

A minute later, Rodrigo Vergilio seemed to have got the better of the Al Wasl defence after a pin-point cross from Saeed Mubarak. He booted the ball home on first touch, but the linesman had already raised his flag up for off-side.

Mahmoud Hasan Darwish almost scored the opener for Nasr in the 37th minute, but the crosspiece denied him.

Two minutes later, the Wasl keeper Rashed Ali, donning the gloves after Majed Nasser was forced to sit out a game for the first time this season, then did well to rush out and pouch a smart little chip from Humaid Abdullah for Hussain Ibrahim.

The woodwork came to Wasl's rescue again in the 44th minute after a brilliantly weighted free-kick from Khamis had beaten the visiting gloveman.

The ball, however, thudded back into play off the right post back.

Khamis was left frustrated again in the 49th minute as his flick for Hussain Ibrahim was neatly placed away from the charging keeper by the latter, but the ball trickled out of play, missing the mark by a whisker.

Abdulla Moosa, the Nasr keeper, had seen little action till then, but challenged by a curling Yeste free kick, he dived low to his left to palm it away. Seconds later, he got behind a thundering volley by al Shaibah from inside a crowded box.

The Nasr fans were left throwing their hands up in agony once again in the 60th minute when Hussain Ibrahim, with just the Wasl keeper to beat, thumped the ball straight at him.

The frustrating wait for Nasr continued as Abdullah Ahmed volleyed into the post in the 80th minute, but in the ensuing play, Saeed Mubarak floated the ball back into the box and Ali Abbas dived in front to head home.

They kept the lead intact in the following minutes and came off the pitch to a roaring send-off from the fans.

In other games, Dubai secured a place in the top flight and doomed Kalba to relegation with a 3-1 home victory; Shabab and visitors Ahli fought to a 2-2 draw; and Sharjah overpowered Al Dhafra 3-0.

arizvi@thenational.ae