x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Kalba 1 Al Nasr 6

Al Nasr's strong start to the season - they are unbeaten in the league - has much to do with recent foreign signings. Again, they excelled against Kalba.

Giuseppe Mascara, right, celebrates after scoring his second and Al Nasr's third goal in Kalba's home game at Al Shabab, Dubai.
Giuseppe Mascara, right, celebrates after scoring his second and Al Nasr's third goal in Kalba's home game at Al Shabab, Dubai.

DUBAI // While Kalba, on to their second manager in this still embryonic season, do not represent the stiffest of examinations, Al Nasr further underlined their title credentials with a resounding victory last night at the Maktoum bin Rashid Stadium.

Walter Zenga, manager of the early Pro League front-runners, never cuts the most contented of figures on the touchline, but even this was enough for the Italian to remain, in comparison to his usual animated self, a fairly passive spectator. His team sit top of the table after four games and have fans dreaming, already, of a first top-flight crown in 22 years.

"We played very well, our players started the match well and that was why we were successful," Zenga said. "We have resolved last season's problems and I am very happy with the standard of our play.

"However, I always remain overcritical and look at every little detail in the team. Last year we struggled against smaller clubs but this time we seem to have found the solution. I hope my players understand this and continue in the same level."

Al Nasr's strong start to the season - they are unbeaten in the league - has much to do with recent foreign signings. Again, they excelled against Kalba.

Giuseppe Mascara, the live wire summer recruit from Italian side Novara, grabbed a brace to make it three goals in two games, while Nashat Akram, the silky Iraq midfielder, scored the game's best and won the penalty that provided Nasr's fourth and prompted the referee to produce a red card.

Bruno Cesar and Leandro Lima, the Brazilian pair, were each on the scoresheet, too.

"I'm not surprised by the level of play from my foreign players," Zenga added. "Because I knew they would fit very well into the system I want for my team."

If only Kalba could draw on similar talents. Last season's Division One champions are renowned for being something of a yo-yo team and, despite employing a man of Lufti Benzarti's experience to replace last week's sacked Dragan Talajic, the trend seems set to continue.

Four Pro League matches have produced a solitary goal - Nabil Daoudi claimed that distinction once Nasr were already guaranteed the points - and Kalba's worryingly porous defence has been breached 18 times.

It must have felt like the same old story when Mohammed Abdullah, the Kalba goalkeeper, was beaten after only 15 minutes.

Cesar pounced on a rebound from Akram's saved shot to bury the ball high into the roof of the net, with Mascara doubling the advantage when he stole between two defenders to glance Habib Fardan's accurate cross into the bottom corner.

Cesar then conjured an assist for Mascara shortly after the break as the "hosts" - the match was being played at the home of Al Shabab - threatened to run riot, the Italian curling expertly past Abdulla's reach. Three-nil and Nasr smelled blood.

Just after the hour mark Akram, impressive throughout, outwitted Kalba's Idris Johar inside the area and, after the defender was dismissed, Lima coolly tucked away the resultant spot kick.

Kalba's pain did not end there, though, Akram blasting in the fifth from all of 40 yards, before Fardan rounded off a fine individual display with a header from close range.

Daoudi's consolation, sandwiched in between those final two, painful blows, offered Benzarti little relief.

"It is not only defence which is the problem, it s the whole team," the Tunisian said.

"I have to try and repair everything. I can't sign any players [as the transfer window is closed until January] so I must work with those that I have. We have to try harder."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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