Josef Hickersberger heaves a sigh of relief after Al Wahda ended their streak of five games without a win with a comprehensive 3-1 triumph over Al Nasr.
Wahda relief as Saleh double ends winless run
Al Nasr 1 // AL Wahda 3
Salem Saleh's first-half brace, after Mohammed Ahmed had put Wahda ahead in the third minute. Ismael Bangoura scored the consolation for the home team in the second session.
Wahda, who had picked up just two points from their previous five Pro League games, take their tally to 23 points, one more than Nasr and Hickersberger was pleased to see his young players come to the fore in the win.
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With as many as seven of their experienced campaigners missing through injuries, including the foreign duo of Fernando Baiano and Magrao, Hickersberger put his trust in the youngsters and they proved their worth.
"We played a good first-half and took all our chances," said the Austrian coach. "Of course, with this lead, I expected to play a better second-half, but we could not do it because many players are not fresh because we are playing every four or five days.
"But in general, we won an important match for us, so that we don't get into trouble from the standings and we don't have anything to do with the relegation. So this was an important win for us
"We played a lot of young players today, for that reason I am very happy… to see these young players do well and score important goals.
"I have a lot of trust in these young players. I see them in training and I know what they are capable of. For me, I have no doubt that when we are short of experienced players, we can play these young players and they will do well."
Wahda had taken the lead even before the Nasr fans had settled into their seats and the goal came off a smart run from Ismail Matar and some amateurish defending by Nasr.
The Nasr goalkeeper, Abdulla Moosa, left his charge to close in on Matar and he was successful in dispossessing the Wahda striker.
However, Bader Yaqoot and Helal Saeed - the two central defenders - made a mess of a simple clearance, tripping over for some inexplicable reasons.
The ball came to Mohammed and he tapped home into the unmanned net.
The Nasr defence was beaten again in the 23rd minute as Matar curled the ball from a corner kick.
Salem Saleh, at the far post, met with no resistance and nodded the ball in.
Six minutes later, Saleh again had plenty of room to manoeuvre inside the box and headed home Matar's cross without any challenges.
Walter Zenga, the former Italy goalkeeper and now Nasr coach, was gesturing excitedly on the sidelines until then, screaming out orders and angrily contesting the referee's decision after Bangoura was brought down inside the Wahda box. Zenga thought Nasr deserved a penalty, but the referee decided otherwise.
After the third goal, however, he sank back into his chair, realising the futility of it all. Even a thunderous Bangoura left-footer in the 44th minute, which bounced off the crossbar, failed to excite the Italian.
"We started the game with two handicaps because we gifted two goals," said Zenga. "It's not like they produced some great move. The third goal was also a gift and it is very difficult to come back into the game after these three goals."
As the referee blew his whistle for half-time, Zenga hurried back into the dressing room, clearly unhappy with his team's performance until then. If his mood was any indication, the Nasr players must have definitely received a bit of the hair-dryer treatment.
The home side started the second-half with two changes: Saeed Mubarak coming on for Salem Khamis and Hussain Ibrahim replacing Rodrigo Vergillo.
The substitutions seemed to be working for Nasr, bringing a bit more vigour to their midfield game.
They made a few threatening runs as well and came very close to reducing the margin in the 64th minute, but, despite a desperate dive, Bangoura failed to connect with Mahmoud Darwish's cross.
Bangoura eventually managed to get on the scoresheet in the 72nd minute, slamming home a clearance following Yunus Ahmed's solo foray into the Wahda box.