Al Nasr 2
Nasr Kembo Ekoko 50’, Pitroipa 89’
Al Jazira 3
Mabkhout (pen) 43’, 46’, Ali 87’
STORY OF MATCH:
DUBAI // Once seemingly certain of a top-three finish, Al Nasr’s quest no longer appears quite so clear.
The Dubai club had long held onto the next best spot behind Al Ahli and Al Ain, the Arabian Gulf League’s two front-runners, but by the close of play Thursday, they had slipped to fifth.
A 3-2 defeat to Al Jazira at their Al Maktoum Stadium was therefore doubly difficult to take. Ultimately outdone by substitute Salem Ali’s late goal, Nasr were at fault to twice concede to Ali Mabkhout, too.
In the end, goals from Jires Kembo Ekoko and Jonathan Pitroipa were not enough for the hosts, not enough to stem the flow, not enough to cease an unfortunate run of results in the league. From their past nine matches, Nasr have just two victories.
While they will point to the table and the fact it shows they sit two points from Al Wahda in third, fourth-placed Al Wasl could conclude the weekend occupying that spot, four points clear of Nasr. Fierce Dubai rivals, that will only accentuate the frustration.
Nasr, though, were the makers of their own downfall. Defender Ali Al Ameri contributed to Mabkhout’s two goals either side of half-time, first in needlessly chopping down Khalfan Mubarak in the penalty area and then hesitating as Mabkhout speed free for Jazira’s second moments after the interval.
Kembo Ekoko pulled one back almost immediately with a fine free-kick, but three minutes from time Ali sealed the points and a deserved triumph for the visitors. Pitroipa did give Nasr minor hope in the last minute, and Jazira then had coach Henk ten Cate sent off, but that could not mar a successful night for Jazira. It stretches their run to four victories from five, lifts them one place in the standings to seventh. The capital club are suddenly going from strength to strength. Nasr, in contrast, need a quick fix.
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Ali Mabkhout – Perhaps not his best night in front of goal, but still a match-winning contribution. Scored twice and assisted the third, while he was always a threat on the break.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAID:
Ivan Jovanovic, the Nasr coach: "It's a bad period in our team now. This happens in football, but we have to find a way to get out of this. We didn't play a good game. I cannot say that my players did not try to change the situation - they tried a lot - but if we wanted a better result we should've played better football. We didn't do this."
Gabriel Choffi, Jazira assistant head coach: "It wasn't an easy game against a strong team with very skilful players, but we're proud of our players. We showed we've a big personality and a big character and against this team like this. The players showed they are learning and getting the confidence the coach is putting in them."
THE NATIONAL VERDICT:
Another defeat leaves Nasr in a difficult situation, but they were second best to Jazira. The visitors have turned around their domestic season, ending talk of relegation and suddenly aiming for a top-six finish.
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