DUBAI // Al Nasr forward Jires Kembo Ekoko has backed his team to emerge from their recent slump.
The Dubai club have begun the 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League badly, with Sunday's 2-1 defeat at home to Al Ain stretching their run to three defeats from their past three matches. As it is, Nasr have only three points from a possible 12, while they have lost four of their past six fixtures in all competitions.
It represents a worrying trend, since the Al Maktoum Stadium side were tipped by many to challenge for at least a top-three finish this season. They have undoubtedly been hit hard by last month's Asian Champions League exit, when they had to forfeit their quarter-final first-leg victory against Qatar's El Jaish after striker Wanderley was ruled to be using a falsified passport. He has since been suspended.
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However, despite the issues on and off the pitch, Kembo Ekoko is confident Nasr can turnaround their form, especially given the season is still young.
“We just need to continue to work, because we’re a good group and we’re good players,” he said. “We just need to continue to work and the luck will come back and we’ll find our level.
“In the year, you always have some time when it’s difficult. OK, I’m happy because it’s now. I’m sure the good days are coming for us.”
Kembo Ekoko played the entire match against former club Al Ain, but could not help his side get back into the game after Khalid Jalal’s own goal granted the visitors a 2-1 lead. Mahmoud Khamis had earlier missed a penalty for Nasr.
Asked if the Wanderley situation has affected the team, Kembo Ekoko replied: “We have a lot of good players, we just need to focus on our job, do our best. Today we fight, we try everything.
“Of course, it’s a very difficult situation, but sometimes you play well and you lose the game. Today we didn’t play bad. We lost, but we had some opportunities to come back into the game. Like I said, sometimes football, you can’t understand it.”
Meanwhile, manager Ivan Jovanovic called on his players to prove their quality, saying: “We’ve had bad results in the last games in the league, but I cannot lose my faith in my players – I believe in them always.
“Of course, with what happened in Champions League, all these two months something is there, but this is not an excuse. We’ve a very good team and we need to show something better to the people who come to the games. We need to respond better as a team.”
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