x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Pro League round-up: Morimoto brace fires Al Nasr to win over Dubai

Relief for coach Walter Zenga as the Dubai club side arrest their recent slide, while Baniyas close the gap on Al AIn and Ajman ease their relegation fears.

Takayuki Morimoto arrived at Al Nasr from Serie A club Catania in January. Pawan Singh / The National
Takayuki Morimoto arrived at Al Nasr from Serie A club Catania in January. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // Tired of body and mind, Al Nasr will hope last night's victory against Dubai can rejuvenate an increasingly weary club.

Walter Zenga's men had 72 hours to prepare for the resumption of their stuttering Pro League campaign, having spent what would have felt just as long chasing shadows in Wednesday's Asian Champions League opener in Iran.

Fortunately for the hosts here, they began the match intent on consigning the Sepahan defeat to the past, and were two goals to the good before the sun had set on a balmy Dubai evening.

A glut of early goals was sure to cool anxieties. Within the opening 25 minutes Takayuki Morimoto and Bruno Correa struck either side of a Mohamed Ismail own goal, providing Nasr with a platform to prevail.

Given recent exertions, the home side slackened after half-time and allowed Dubai a brief opportunity to salvage something – Ahmed Mallah pouncing on a half-cleared corner – yet Morimoto's second 14 minutes from time sealed three points.

"We knew we'd suffer with fitness because of the participation in the Asian Champions League," Zenga said. "That's why I wanted us to finish the match early so we'd be able to get the win. I read a report in a local newspaper where a reporter criticised us for coming into training on Thursday morning. I don't really care about the criticism, I simply follow the programme I see fit for the team."

Morimoto appeared anything but lethargic and his contribution would have pleased a coach who has placed much faith in his former charge. The Japanese striker, recruited in January from Serie A's Catania, played under Zenga during his time in Italy, but has struggled to adapt to UAE football.

However, a brace – the first a swivel and neat finish, the second a looping header – broke his league duck.

"We definitely hope Takayuki can score 10 goals at least this season," the Italian said. "And that Bruno [Correa] goes back to scoring as well, so we can benefit from our foreign players.

"But the most important thing is the win, regardless of the details of the match."

Rene Marsiglia's Dubai have been similarly troubled of late, and this defeat extended a wretched sequence to one win from nine in the league. It is the 12 goals conceded in their past three matches, though, that concerns their manager.

"We're seeing the same level in the last games," Marsiglia said. "We always give the opposition the chance to score early, and therefore make it too easy for them. But we won't give up. The club is going through a difficult period and we must work hard to correct it."

Ajman 2 Al Shabab 2

Ajman edged away from the relegation zone with a win at home to Al Shabab. Boris Kabi opened the scoring and things got worse for Shabab just before half time when Sami Anbar was sent off for a second yellow card. Kabi grabbed a second before Edgar Bruno grabbed a late brace for Shabab.

Dibba Al Fujairah 1 Baniyas 2

A late winner from Nawaf Musabh allowed Baniyas, right, in white, to leapfrog Al Jazira into second place and ensured Dibba Al Fujairah remained rooted to the bottom of the table in Fujairah last night. Fawaz Al Musabi gave the visitors the lead before Luiz Fernando levelled after 64 minutes, but Musabh grabbed the winner.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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