DUBAI // Hands on his hips, occasionally in his pockets, Rene Marsiglia looked baffled as he paced the sidelines with a distant and disturbed look. By the end of the game, he must have been a heartbroken man as well.
For the past two weeks, the Frenchman has been trying to find solutions for Dubai's sudden dip in form, but his team's performance in a 6-3 loss to Al Ahli on Friday suggests he will have to spend a few more sleepless nights before he finds answers.
Dubai were completely outplayed as Grafite scored a hat-trick – his fourth of the Pro League this season – and Luis Jimenez struck two and Ricardo Quaresma one. Adnan Hussain had a part to play in five of those goals.
This was the fourth consecutive Pro League defeat for Marsiglia's men and all of them have been by big margins: 5-0 at Baniyas, 3-0 against Al Wahda and then 4-1 at Al Nasr.
In the first half of the Pro League, the same team had come back with a 2-1 win from Al Wahda and 1-1 draws at Ahli and Al Jazira. Marsiglia has been struggling to put a finger on the causes of the slump.
Perhaps it is Richard Porta's lean times. The Australian striker scored eight goals in Dubai's first nine matches, but he failed to get on the score sheet for the next seven. The medically forced dismissal of Simon Feindouno in January has probably played a part, as well.
The French-Guinean was the heart of Dubai's midfield and, given his experience in UAE football, replacing such a player is never an easy task.
The club's management openly conceded that as they first tried the Spaniard Juan Quero only to show him the door after two matches and bring in the Al Shaab discard Rodrigo Vergilio.
The Brazilian, however, has done little in his past three Pro League appearances for his new employers. On Friday night, again, he failed to leave any great impressions. Not that he got many chances to shine with Ahli defenders Yousuf Mohamed and Basheer Saeed allowing for little freedom of movement.
Porta, however, remained a threat and tested his former teammate at Al Wasl, Majed Naser, with a heavy shot in the 19th minute.
In the final minute of the game, he did manage to beat Naser with a curling effort that deserved a bit more applause then it got.
At the other end, Grafite and Quaresma kept asking questions of the Dubai defence, but it was Luis Jimenez who put them ahead in the 25th minute, booting home a low cross from the Brazilian following a good run down the right by Hussain.
Abdulaziz Sanqoor almost doubled the visitor's tally in the 30th minute with a searing volley, but the Dubai goalkeeper Jamal Abdullah did well to keep the ball out of the nets. Sanquor's UAE teammate Abdulaziz Haikal then took his chances in the 36th minute from almost 30 yards and nearly got past the keeper.
Ahli got their second just before the break when Grafite blasted Quaresma's clever chip over the Dubai defence and into the top of the nets. Seconds later, the Brazilian got his second of the night, heading in Hussain's cross.
Hussain was the provider in Ahli's fourth and fifth goals, as well, both coming within a minute of each other. First, in the 65th minute, Jimenez tapped home a rebound after the Dubai keeper had punched back Hussain's effort. Seconds later, the January recruit from Baniyas made a solo run down the middle before crossing for Quaresma to finish, the first goal in the UAE for the Portguese, coming in his fifth match.
Quaresma then turned provider in the 75th minute, helping Grafite complete his hat-trick.
Ahli's sixth goal of the night had come just a minute after substitute Mohammed Ibrahim had pulled one back for the hosts. Yousuf Hassan, another substitute, scored Dubai's second in the 85th minute and Porta added the third just before the end to lend a bit more respectability to the score line.