Mark Bresciano's seventh of the season for Al Nasr will count as one of the most important of the season for it came against a team that looked to be running away with the competition.
Mark Bresciano a rich source of goals for Walter Zenga's Nasr
DUBAI // Mark Bresciano's Spartacus pose is a bit of a rage among his fans. After every goal he scores, the Australian stops in the same position, standing still, clenched fists on his side and a smirk on his face.
Those moments have not come very often though. In four years at Parma, he scored 19 times; he spent the same period at Palermo and had 12 goals. The last season at Lazio was a barren one.
He seems to be making up for it at Al Nasr.
The 31 year old with a shiny, clean-shaven pate is the leading scorer for his team in the Pro League with six goals in the first half of the competition. His seventh, however, will count as one of the most important strikes of the season for it came against a team that looked to be running away with the competition.
Al Ain had not lost a game and had won eight of their past 11 matches, but Bresciano's fifth-minute goal last night put Nasr in the driver's seat and they eventually finished the game 2-0, with Yunus Abdulla scoring in the second minute of added time.
The home fans, who had been waving a banner reading "One life, One love, One club" till that opening goal, put that aside and brought forth a fresh one which said: "We don't need Cristiano, we've got Bresciano", referring to Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
The win allowed Nasr to stretch their unbeaten run in the league to nine matches, leapfrog Al Jazira to second position and close the gap on Al Ain at the top.
Walter Zenga's team now have 24 points, while Al Ain have 27; Jazira are third on 23.
"We knew we were playing against a team who have not lost a match and scored in every game, but we beat them and kept them from scoring," Zenga said. "This proves we are a good team – the players and the technical staff and management."
Nasr did not have it easy and many among Al Ain's fans will wonder what could have been had Asamoah Gyan been present - he is currently with his national team, Ghana, at the African Cup of Nations.
The visitors created a plethora of chances, but as Zenga is wont to say, you create your own luck, and Bresciano did that for Nasr and his teammates then played their part, absorbing all the pressure the visitors created.
It was a smart goal and deserving of a match-winner.
As Amara Diane chested down a cross, Bresciano darted into the box and received the ball on his left leg; with his stretched right leg, he flicked the ball behind him, into the far corner. And then came the Spartacus pose till his teammates dragged him away.
A goal up, Nasr then sat back to smother Al Ain's hopes.
The visitors created numerous chances, especially Ignacio Scocco, but Nasr goalkeeper Abdullah Moosa, who turned in an excellent performance, and the men in front of him managed to deny the Al Ain attack.
As Yunus Abdulla scored in injury time, the frustration in the Al Ain camp turned to anger and the match ended in players from both sides pushing and shoving, but the fracas was extinguished as quickly as it started.
As for how far Nasr can carry their momentum, Zenga was cautious
"We are second in the ranking," he said. "When is the last time we were second in the ranking? In 1999-2000. I was playing in Boston then. Al Ain are first, we are second and Jazira third, but don't underestimate the like of Al Shabab.
"In my opinion, it's going to be an exciting second half. The final 10 games, I believe, are going to be the best in the history of the league."