Al Nasr coach Ivan Jovanovic said his side was still struggling to get over their Asian Champions League exit following a 1-0 defeat at home to Al Ahli in the Arabian Gulf League on Thursday.
The Blue Wave beat Qatar’s El Jaish 3-0 away in last month’s ACL quarter-final first leg, but that result was reversed to a 3-0 defeat by the Asian Football Confederation for fielding a player on a “forged or falsified” passport.
Every team is allowed three foreigners plus one Asian player, but Al Nasr had Brazilian-born striker Wanderley Santos occupying the Asian slot under an allegedly suspect Indonesian passport. Santos has been suspended pending further investigation and El Jaish won the second leg 1-0 to progress 4-0.
Jovanovic said the situation was still affecting his players after they fell to an AGL second round defeat to defending league champions Al Ahli on Thursday thanks to a lone goal from Rodrigo Lima.
“After two games in the league we don’t have the same performance we had in the first game of the season against El Jaish in Doha,” said the Serbian. “Of course we beat Al Dhafra 4-2 away,” he added of last week’s opening AGL win. “But looking at both games, we’re not at the level we can be.
“The situation over these past few weeks hasn’t been pleasant. We don’t have the enthusiasm we had before as a team and don’t forget we’ve also lost a very important player from the team,” he said of Santos. “The presence of a good striker is very important.”
Al Ahli beat Al Nasr after Lima got a foot to the end of Ahmad Khalil’s cross on 25 minutes following a counter-attack. Both teams then had players sent off in the second half. Al Nasr had Masoud Sulaiman sent off after the hour, while Al Ahli lost Abdul Aziz Al Haikal in the closing minutes.
“Al Ahli sat back and gave us room to play but we didn’t have options in the final third to convert our chances,” said Jovanovic. “Al Ahli then scored from a counter. As usual games against Al Ahli are decided upon small details. I believe the team that won today took advantage of the mistakes of the other team.”
Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu said: “We controlled the first half and didn’t give them a chance, but in the second half we pulled back. After the red card we relaxed a bit and Al Nasr stepped forward more.
“We relaxed thanks to the result and the lack of pressure Al Nasr put us under. We scored thanks to a counter and didn’t choose to play this way but the players are tired.”
By Ashley Hammond
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