x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sanchez Flores was not sitting comfortably

In less than a minute the Spanish manager was able to celebrate his new team's first goal, but then Al Nasr hit back with three of their own.

Quique Sanchez Flores, the head coach of Al Ahli, did not get the start he wanted with his new club.
Quique Sanchez Flores, the head coach of Al Ahli, did not get the start he wanted with his new club.

DUBAI // Quique Sanchez Flores had barely taken his seat in the dugout at Rashid Stadium when he had reason to rise again.

The Spaniard, taking charge of Al Ahli for the first time since being announced as Ivan Hasek's replacement, watched Grafite, his Brazilian forward, breach Al Nasr's goal within 45 seconds of kick off in last night's Etisalat Cup Group B tie.

Yet the pleasure did not last. Goals from Nasr's Amara Diane and Masoud Hassan either side of half time and a fortuitous deflection from a Mark Bresciano free kick delivered the 46-year-old former Atletico Madrid coach defeat on his Middle East debut.

Sanchez Flores appeared at ease early on as he chatted to the assistant manager Francisco Martin, his compatriot who worked with Rafael Benitez at Liverpool.

When Grafite carried the ball up the left, evaded his marker and hit a heavy strike at goal from about 15 yards, the Nasr goalkeeper Ahmed Mohammed Shambieh was able to get only the tips of his fingers to it before it nestled in the right side of his net.

As immediately as Ahli had taken the lead, Nasr took control, dominating the midfield and asking hard questions of the Ahli defence.

In the 17th minute, Nasr should have been level when Bresciano, the Australian who spent more than a decade in Seria A, provided a clever lay-off for Yunus Ahmad Abdualla, but the Emirati scuffed his shot straight at Mohammed Yousif in the Ahli goal.

The more Nasr pushed, the more animated Walter Zenga, Sanchez Flores's opposite number in the Nasr dugout, became.

Screaming at his midfield to play wide rather than through the middle, he will have bitten his tongue when Bresciano, at the heart of Nasr's best moves, worked an opening in the centre of the penalty area for Diane, who turned and fired past Yousif in the 34th minute.

If the body language of Sanchez Flores and Zenga was in stark contrast, their success in substitutions was equally as juxtaposed.

While the debutant Spaniard made two changes at half time, it failed to inspire his side; Hassan nodded home for Nasr from a corner 14 minutes into the second half. Zenga meanwhile, introduced Hussain Ibrahim Hussain after 70 minutes and the Emirati scored with his first touch. Bresciano's free kick clipped Hussain's back to take it past Yousif.

With the clock running down, Ahli threw everything they had at their city rivals, but by the time Grafite pulled one back, it was too late for redemption.

Sanchez Flores, as he did for his forward's first goal, remained in his seat. When the whistle indicated full time, he traipsed down the tunnel with his head hung low.

Welcomes have been warmer.