x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Fans vent frustration at Zenga after dismal Al Nasr display

The Italian coach was the target of unhappy supporters as Dubai club suffer a 3-0 home defeat in Asian Champions League.

Helal Saeed, in blue, the Al Nasr defender, blocks Moharram Navidkia of Sepahan from getting to the ball before the Nasr goalkeeper last night in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Helal Saeed, in blue, the Al Nasr defender, blocks Moharram Navidkia of Sepahan from getting to the ball before the Nasr goalkeeper last night in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // Al Nasr went a man down in the 49th minute and squandered a penalty five minutes later as the Dubai club disappointed their fans in a 3-0 loss to the two-time defending Iranian champions Sepahan.

A goal down in the 44th minute after Bruno Correa's sharp finish, Nasr lost their goalkeeper Abdullah Mousa four minutes into the second session for a petulant and unnecessary tackle on Omid Ebrahimi. Amara Diane then struck a penalty straight into the Sepahan keeper and the frustrated home fans later watched Xhevahir Sukaj and Mehdi Seyed-Salehi add to their agony with two more goals.

The defeat doomed Nasr to the bottom of Group C in Asian Champions League play.

As the final minutes approached, a few of the fans could be heard shouting at the players and one of them had an argument with the Nasr coach Walter Zenga, shouting, "Zenga, this is a disgrace."

It was a disappointing finish for the hosts, but the portents were evident before the game when Zenga was forced to change his squad just minutes before kick off.

Luca Toni, who had returned to the Nasr line-up last week after a month out with an elbow injury, was withdrawn at the last minute. He was on the starting list, but as the teams walked out to the pitch, a fresh list was circulated and it did not include the Italian striker's name even among the substitutes.

Younus Ahmad made the starting XI instead.

Toni had warmed up with the team, but he seemed to experience a problem with a muscle in his leg, and called out a physio. The player's discomfort forced the change. Thankfully for the home fans, Diane, who had missed the match against Al Wasl last week, was fit enough to start and the hosts looked sprightly in the opening exchanges.

Sepahan, on the other hand, seemed a bit edgy. Around the 18th minute, Ebrahimi and Fabio Januario were seen arguing furiously over who would take a free kick. Mohsen Bengar had to intervene and calm them down.

Nasr, however, failed to use Sepahan's disarray to their advantage. Mark Bresciano should have done better with the ball in the 30th minute as he muscled his way around the Sepahan defence. The Australian could have passed the ball to teammate Diane, who was screaming for the ball, but Bresciano decided on taking a shot which was well wide of the mark.

Bresciano had another opportunity in the 35th minute when Diane tapped the ball back for him, but the Nasr captain's effort was way off target.

The home side's profligacy came back to haunt them in the 44th minute when Correa put them ahead. The Brazilian striker flicked Mehdi Karimian's cross over Mousa to bring the noisy Sepahan fans to their feet.

A goal down, Nasr were soon to be a man down, too, in the fourth minute of the second half after Mousa pushed Ebrahimi down and was shown a straight red card. The Nasr keeper was upset about Ebrahimi's unsporting behaviour as the Iranian chased down a ball that was being returned to Nasr after the hosts had kicked it out to allow a Sepahan player to receive treatment.

Ebrahimi, however, showed his sporting side later, tapping the resulting penalty softly into the hands of the substitute goalkeeper Abdullah Mohammed.

Nasr were awarded a penalty in the 54th minute after Diane tripped over the outstretched hands of the Sepahan keeper Rahman Ahmadi. To the shock of the home fans, though, Ahmadi dived low to his right to keep out the Ivorian's effort.

Nasr found themselves two goals down in the 68th minute when the Albanian Sukaj made a blistering run on the left, outsprinting Ali Al Ameri and volleying on the run past the keeper. Seyed-Salehi got the final goal with a header.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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