x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Nasr set a challenge as Baniyas clinch maiden Champions League win

Baniyas beat Qatar's Al Arabi 2-0, but Jazira's match in Uzbekistan is postponed due to snow, while Sheikh Rashid visits Nasr training ahead of their trip to Iran.

Luca Toni will lead the line for Al Nasr in their first Asian Champions League campaign. Pawan Singh / The National
Luca Toni will lead the line for Al Nasr in their first Asian Champions League campaign. Pawan Singh / The National

Al Nasr will make their Asian Champions League debut tonight and the squad travelled to Iran with challenging words from their chairman ringing in their ears.

And they have promised to do all they can to reward Sheikh Rashid bin Hamdan with a strong display against Sepahan tonight.

Sheikh Rashid, the chairman of Al Nasr, watched the players in training on Sunday as they prepared for tomorrow's ACL opener at the Naghsh e Jahan Stadium.

"We hope the team's strong performances this season will continue and they remain in a leading position in the league," Sheikh Rashid said after the training session.

"The challenge for the title this season is tough and we hope to reach our goal and be crowned [champions]," he said.

Sheikh Rashid reminded the team members that they will be representing the UAE in the continental competition, he urged them to them to strive for a positive result.

Marwan bin Ghalaita, the club chief executive, and the players responded by saying they intended to put in an excellent performance.

The team arrived in Iran on Monday night. Walter Zenga, the Nasr coach, is missing his Olympic team players Habib Al Fardan and Ali Al Amri along with the injured Hassan Amin, Fahad Sabil and Khalid Sarwash.

And he has fitness concerns over the striker Younis Ahmed who suffered a minor thigh injury but trained with the team on Sunday.

However, Luca Toni, the club's new foreign signing, looked especially sharp in training, as did the Ivorian Amara Diane.

Nasr have been on a hot run of form in the Pro League, winning four of their last five games.

They are second in the table, five points behind the leaders Al Ain.

Meanwhile, Baniyas made a superb start to their maiden Champions League campaign as they beat the Qatari side Al Arabi 2-0 tonight.

Despite missing several players on duty with the UAE Olympic team, Baniyas made comfortable work of a side who finished fourth in the Qatar Stars League last season but who are struggling in ninth this season in the 12-team competition.

Yousif Jaber scored from the spot just before half time and Francisco Yeste settled things with a strike from the edge of the area with 13 minutes left.

Heavy snow in Uzbekistan meant the tie between Nasaf Qarshi and the UAE’s Al Jazira had to be postponed and the match will now be played tomorrow at 4pm.

A blizzard just before kick off covered the pitch in snow. The start was delayed for an hour to see if conditions would improve but they didn’t.

The extra day in Uzbekistan is not ideal for Frankie Vercauteren’s team, who have an Etisalat Cup semi-final match on Sunday against Al Ahli in Abu Dhabi.

amustafa@thenational.ae