Asian Champions League: Knockout novices Al Nasr put one foot firmly in semi-finals after smashing El Jaish

Wanderley scored twice on debut, either side of a Jonathan Pitroipa goal, and Al Nasr took a giant step towards the Asian Champions League semi-finals. John McAuley reports from Doha.
Al Nasr goalscorers Jonathan Pitropia, left, and Wanderley, celebrate after the former put the Dubai club 2-0 ahead against Qatar's El Jaish in the first leg of their Asian Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, August 24, 2016. Courtesy Al Nasr FC
Al Nasr goalscorers Jonathan Pitropia, left, and Wanderley, celebrate after the former put the Dubai club 2-0 ahead against Qatar's El Jaish in the first leg of their Asian Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, August 24, 2016. Courtesy Al Nasr FC

El Jaish 0

Al Nasr 3 (Wanderley 45’, 85’, Pitriopa 54’

DOHA // Wanderley scored twice on debut, either side of a Jonathan Pitroipa goal, and Al Nasr took a giant step towards the Asian Champions League semi-finals.

The Dubai club, never before at this point of the continent’s premier club competition, never before beyond the group stages, had too much for El Jaish at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium on Wednesday, returning from the quarter-final first leg in Doha with a sizeable 3-0 lead. Surely, they have one foot in the last four.

See more on Al Nasr:

• Comment: Wanderley represents significant upgrade on Al Nasr’s Asian Champions League aspirations

• Asian Champions League: Al Nasr and El Jaish step into unknown territory in quarter-final clash

• Who are El Jaish? A guide to Al Nasr’s Asian Champions League quarter-final opponents

It was as much as Nasr deserved for they had provided an expert away performance that belied their knockout-novices tag. New to all this? As if.

Wanderley certainly looked an old hand by grabbing the opener, a debut goal for his new club that immediately repaid some of the outlay Nasr transferred to Sharjah last month.

The Brazilian, making his Champions League bow as well, tapped in Pitroipa’s squared pass right on half time, then set off towards the grateful gathering of Nasr supporters behind the goal. The away bench swiftly followed, acutely aware that their recent recruit had struck gold.

It got better for Nasr not long after the break, when Pitroipa received a smart pass from Abdelaziz Barrada, another summer signing, and drove his low shot past Khalifa Ababacar in the El Jaish goal. Nasr had dealt their opponents a double blow.

A potentially fatal one arrived late on, Wanderley side-footing home substitute Salem Saleh’s side pass. He was swamped by teammates, just reward since Nasr had swarmed all over El Jaish from the first whistle.

The hosts could have little complaint, given they were second best for much of the match. Nasr, missing the suspended Jires Kembo Ekoko, had first tested Ababacar as early as the sixth minute, drilling a skimming shot from distance that the sprawling goalkeeper palmed away for a corner.

For their part, El Jaish threatened only sporadically, although star forward Sardor Rashidov did break free midway through the first half before stinging the palms of Ahmed Shambieh, the Nasr goalkeeper.

At half time, the Doha club brought on Seydou Keita, the former Sevilla, Barcelona and Roma midfielder, in an attempt to turn the tide, to claw back possession and poise, but the veteran Mali international struggled to affect the game. After all, he signed just last week.

To be fair, Keita did almost get on the scoresheet in injury time, rising highest in the Nasr penalty area to direct a header down towards goal, yet full-back Ahmed Al Yassi cleared from the line.

Nasr would not be outdone, would not surrender any ground having expended so much to put themselves in such a superior spot. Ivan Jovanovic’s men were professional and potent, a perfect blend to lift the club closer to a place in the semi-finals.

The entire team celebrated with fans as soon as the final whistle sounded, knowing a similar performance in three weeks’ time would book that last-four place.

An improbable dream from the outset of this competition, it now feels like they can reach and touch it.

*************************************************************************

FC Seoul in control after 3-1 win over Shandong

FC Seoul took a grip of their Asian Champions League quarter-final after overcoming Shandong Luneng 3-1 in the first leg in the Korean capital on Wednesday.

Goals from Park Chu-young, Dejan Damjanovic and Brazilian top scorer Adriano gave them a deserved two-goal cushion to take to China for the second leg on September 14.

Adriano was dropped to the bench after a recent form slump despite 11 Champions League goals this campaign. Instead it was former Arsenal attacker Park who was preferred to partner Damjanovic up front.

It didn’t take long for coach Hwang Sun-hong’s decision to be vindicated as Park, who in the 16th minute had blasted wastefully wide when it seemed easier to score, turned provider three minutes later.

The Seoul No 10’s cross found Damjanovic with the freedom of the penalty area as he nodded home unmarked his eighth goal in his last eight games from the edge of the six-yard box to open the scoring.

It was man-of-the-match Park’s turn on 31 minutes to take advantage of shoddy Shandong defending.

Park was found lurking in acres of space on the edge of the box by Cho Chan-ho’s pass before having time to turn and shoot past Wang Dalei to make it 2-0.

With big-money signing from Southampton Graziano Pelle making little impact up front for the visitors, there seemed no way back.

But a foul just outside the penalty area after a rare Shandong forward foray gave Walter Montillo a sniff of goal and the Argentine expertly curled home the 35th-minute free kick to reduce the deficit to 2-1.

The home fans erupted in delight when their hero Adriano finally made his entrance in the 60th minute in place of Cho.

Just nine minutes later he took his Champions League tally for the season to 12 when he was sent clear in the box by Damjanovic’s delightful back heel to make it 3-1.

There was time for Shandong midfielder Jin Jingdao to earn himself an early shower in the 81st minute after being needlessly booked twice in the space of four minutes for petulant fouls.

Jin will be suspended for the second leg.

QUARTER-FINAL FIRST LEG RESULTS:

Tuesday, August 23

• Shanghai SIPG 0 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0

• Al Ain 0 Lokomotiv 0

Wednesday, August 24

• FC Seoul 3 Shandong Luneng 1

• El Jaish 0 Al Nasr 3

Return legs to be played September 13 and 14 respectively.

* With additional reporting from Agence France-Presse

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Published: August 24, 2016 04:00 AM

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