x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Etisalat Cup: Walter Zenga criticises attitude of Al Nasr players

Al Wahda beat the Dubai side 3-0 in a Etisalat Cup game - but it was the lack of willingness to put up a fight that attracted wrath of the Italian coach.

Saeed Al Kathiri, in white, was the hero of the night by scoring twice for Al Wahda against Al Nasr tonight. The Al Nasr players came in for criticism from their coach Walter Zenga for not fighting hard enough. Christopher Pike / The National
Saeed Al Kathiri, in white, was the hero of the night by scoring twice for Al Wahda against Al Nasr tonight. The Al Nasr players came in for criticism from their coach Walter Zenga for not fighting hard enough. Christopher Pike / The National

DUBAI // Given Walter Zenga, the Al Nasr coach, has recently found himself in hot water regarding comments made last season to a journalist, it was perhaps no surprise to find him conducting tonight's news conference in his native Italian.

The former Azzurri international often displays a fine command of English, but he opted to make use of a nearby translator at the Zabeel Stadium to criticise his side for their undisciplined Etisalat Cup defeat to Al Wahda.

Nasr were largely outplayed by their Abu Dhabi rivals, whose preparations were interrupted when Branko Ivankovic, their coach, had to return to Croatia after the death of his mother.

A brace from Saeed Al Kathiri supplemented Salem Saleh's first-half strike to provide some relief and consigned Nasr, who also had their captain Mahmoud Darwish sent off on 40 minutes, to an unsatisfactory start to their 2012/13 campaign.

"I'm upset as we lose a bit of the confidence we have built during the past few weeks of pre-season," Zenga said.

"I didn't like the reaction of my team, when the players did not fight on the pitch. A team can lose 3-0 but when you don't fight until the end it is not acceptable.

"My players need to realise football is not just a job. But the first person to inject this into them is the coach himself. When I said I'm not happy, I have still been working hard on the training pitch for the past 15 days and am confident we will improve."

Of the red card Darwish received for a lunge on Srdnan Andric, Zenga added: "There was no need for that sort of tackle. There was no danger and that just increased the pressure on us."

For Andrej Panadic, Wahda's assistant coach, the win represented a triumph in adversity. The Croatian revealed his young side were shaken by news of Ivankovic's mother, although they quickly resolved to gain three points in her memory.

"We had a very tough game but also a tough morning," Panadic said. "We promised Branko we would fight for him and his family and our players did that.

"We must be confident now with this first game. We show people in the Emirates that we are a very serious team."

Elsewhere, Baniyas beat Pro League new boys Al Dhafra 2-1, Mohamed Zidane scoring five minutes into his debut before providing an assist for Andre Senghor to nod home.

Dhafra pulled a goal back with a penalty from Hamad Raqea, after Baniyas had been reduced to 10 men following Amer Abdulrahman's second bookable offence.

Dibba Al Fujairah were also given a taste of what to expect this season, last season's second-placed Division One side were beaten 6-1 at Ajman as striker Founeke Sy struck four goals.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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