x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Bonacic plan falls down

A new league and supposedly a new dawn for UAE football, but an old problem rears its ugly head.

DUBAI // A new league and supposedly a new dawn for UAE football, but an old problem reared its ugly head at the Maktoum Stadium on Friday night. After the first half sparked into life courtesy of 13 manic minutes - Al Nasr going into the break with a 2-1 lead - Luka Bonacic sent his side out to stifle Al Ahli for the remaining 45. They did so in the most unsporting manner. With their opponents in the ascendancy, Nasr sought to disrupt the visitors' flow by throwing themselves to the ground under the slightest of challenges. It was a tactic that clearly irked Ivan Hasek, the visiting coach.

"There's too much simulation and if we don't do something about it it's a problem," he complained. "For the first 20 minutes of the second half we didn't play for 12 of them. Every time somebody falls down we stop the play for three minutes when the player should be off the field. "After we scored the goal [to draw level] nobody stayed down, there was no simulation. I don't want my players doing it so I don't put the doctor on. I think the Association needs to look at this. It's not football."

Indeed, Hasek was seen on more than one occasion urging his own players to stay on their feet when it would have been easier to go down. The truth was though, Ahli just needed to play. Ismael Salem, the diminutive winger, was superb for the Red Knights and capped an impressive display with first winning the penalty that drew the visitors level - Amer Mubarak saw red for a reckless challenge - and then drilling a half volley low inside the post from the edge of the area. Substitute Salem Khamis rounded off a 4-2 win.

Bonacic was more frank in his post-match analysis. "What can I expect from a young team without four or five experienced guys? I am trying to build, but I need the materials. Ahli are better, when they play against our team we don't have a chance." @Email:sports@thenational.ae