x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Jazira drop more points in league

But coach Franky Vercauteren pleased with the way the champions fought back to draw game with Al Nasr.

Ibrahim Diaky, centre, tumbles between Ali Abbas, left, and Mahmoud Darwish, right, whose Al Nasr side are unbeaten in six games.
Ibrahim Diaky, centre, tumbles between Ali Abbas, left, and Mahmoud Darwish, right, whose Al Nasr side are unbeaten in six games.

DUBAI // Franky Vercauteren saluted the hunger of his Al Jazira players after they fought back from two goals down to snatch a point at Al Nasr on Thursday night.

With eight minutes left on the clock, Jazira seemed headed for their third consecutive Pro League loss after Leonardo Lima and Mark Bresciano had given the hosts a 2-0 lead.

Lucas Neill, who had conceded a penalty for Nasr's first goal, gave the visitors some hope with his 82nd-minute volley and Esmail Khamis equalised in injury time.

"We have to be happy about the reactions of the team," said Vercauteren. "The reaction of the players is the most important thing for me. It shows Jazira are still hungry.

"Of course, we are disappointed because we did not win, but we have to be satisfied with the end result. I believe we deserved what we got [a point]. Losing this game would not have been the right thing."

Nasr took the lead in the 41st minute when Neill, the Australia international, handled a ball inside the box. The referee pointed to the spot and Lima converted.

A goal down, Jazira made a spirited bid for the equaliser as they came out after the break, but Bresciano added the second for Nasr instead, slamming a Lima pass into the back of the net in the 53rd minute.

The home side could have added a third in the 58th minute, but Careca missed the target by a mere inches.

"We started well and played a good 40 minutes," Vercauteren said. "The only thing you can say is we did not create a lot of chances, but we had most of the possession, we were patient and we did not give them many opportunities.

"They are a good, organised team. They are a team who can wait for a very long time and counter. Set pieces and counters are what they tried to use and [they] succeeded."

The finish brought back memories of their last game for Nasr coach Walter Zenga. Lima equaliser in the sixth minute of injury time in that match, a 2-2 against Al Wasl.

"Last game we were very happy about scoring in the last second, now we are sad about conceding the equaliser in the last minutes," Zenga said. "But this is football.

"Nasr controlled most of the game. I cannot say anything to my players, I can only thank them for the way they played. We received two goals towards the end and this leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, but you cannot really fault the players."

The draw stretches Nasr's unbeaten run to six games and they remain fourth on the table with 15 points. Jazira slip down to third with 17 points, having dropped eight points in their last three games.

"We were the champions last year and it's high time we stop living in the past," said Vercauteren.

"Almost always, when you are the defending champions, you need to work harder and rediscover your ambitions. There is also extra pressure on you, but if you are a player of Al Jazira, you should use this pressure as a positive, as a motivating factor.

"We have to keep asking ourselves what we can do better.

"It is not impossible to close the gap [on leaders Al Ain]. We are aware that we need to put in more work and we know we need to show more quality."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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