x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Jovanovic outburst propels Al Nasr’s victory win over Ajman

Ibrahima Toure scored just before halftime and Al Nasr held on for a 2-1 victory over Ajman in Dubai, reports John McAuley.

Al Nasr’s Tariq Ahmed, left, goes up for a uncontested header against Ajman on Thursday night. Lee Hoagland / The National
Al Nasr’s Tariq Ahmed, left, goes up for a uncontested header against Ajman on Thursday night. Lee Hoagland / The National

Al Nasr 2 Ajman 1

Al Nasr Holman 3’, Toure 45+1 Ajman Feindouno 75’

Man of the match Simon Feindouno (Ajman)

DUBAI // Ivan Jovanovic does not look like the most disagreeable man in the world.

Since his introduction in July as Al Nasr’s coach, the Serbian tactician has radiated a certain serenity, softly spoken, forever immaculately turned out.

A CV that includes unprecedented success in Cyprus with Apoel Nicosia probably permits a particular calm, although on arrival at Al Maktoum Stadium this summer some would have wondered how this apparently placid chap could cajole a group that had just floundered under the incendiary Walter Zenga.

Firebrand for flatliner? It would never work. Yet last night, as Nasr entertained Ajman with third place in the Arabian Gulf League at stake, Jovanovic finally blew his cover. And with it, his top.

Habib Fardan, the Nasr midfielder, was the detonator, choosing to surrender a first-half chance to release Ibrahima Toure in on goal to instead roll the ball out of play as an opponent lay prone on the turf.

The only thing was, the Ajman player had quickly sprung to his feet, meaning Nasr had wasted a golden opportunity to build on Brett Holman’s third-minute opener. Jovanovic let Fardan know in no uncertain terms.

Displaying a hitherto little-known short fuse – to those outside the Nasr squad, at least – the coach leapt from his trademark touchline crouch, a ferocious blur of flaying arms and emphatic words.

Thank heavens, then, that Nasr resolved to placate their mentor, with Toure notching what turned out to be the winner on the stroke of half time.

Simon Feindouno’s beautifully dipping, 75th-minute strike for Ajman further threatened the equanimity, but Nasr held on to record a vital three points.

Jovanovic’s impromptu outburst, or malfunction, or whatever it was, offered perhaps the greatest insight into why a club who struggled to sixth last season are now being mentioned as possible title contenders.

By the time the match had finished, though, Jovanovic, rather unfortunately, had reverted to type.

“Sometimes as a person, I have some nerves during the game,” he said. “So you have to excuse me.”

Evidently, he preferred to concentrate on the result.

“It was a very, very important three points, and fair, although they came in a difficult way,” Jovanovic said.

“The league this year is a little bit awkward because you see many teams stay around the same position. All the teams can beat each other and if you are not good on the pitch you can easily lose points.

“So for us, this was an important victory.”

The defeat was perhaps harsh on Ajman.

The visitors tested Nasr throughout the second half, but would be left to rue some resolute goalkeeping from Yousuf Abdullah and an even sturdier upright. They remain mired at the wrong end of the table, with one victory from 11 attempts, prompting Abdulwahab Abdulqadir, their third-year coach, to call for January reinforcements.

“As you’ve seen we’ve some injuries to main players,” he said. “If we don’t have new players by the end of January there will definitely be trouble for us.”