Dubai: Red-carded coach Walter Zenga praised his Al Nasr side’s maturity to push on without him on the touchline to record a 4-1 league win at home to Al Wahda late on Sunday.
Both Zenga and midfielder Nashat Akram were dismissed — for dissent and a second bookable offence respectively — in either half. But the Blue Wave battled on regardless to record their fifth win of the season thanks to a hat-trick from Bruno Correa. The win moved them up to second in the Etisalat Pro-League, two points behind leaders Al Ain.
And it is mental strength such as this, thought to be lacking last season, that the Italian coach believes could well see his side take the title this season.
“I have to congratulate the players on a very good win today. They put in a great performance against a very tough team and we were able to control the match and finish it to our advantage,” said Zenga, who has led Al Nasr to third and then second-place finishes the last two seasons.
“It’s difficult to compare two seasons, there are different players and each season the style of play changes. Last season there were different qualities.
“Al Ain have scored 35 goals in seven matches so we consider them a very strong competitor, along with Al Ahli, Bani Yas and Al Jazira, these are all strong contenders. But of course we continue to focus on our team to prepare and perform the same as we did today.”
Al Nasr opened the scoring early on, when Correa headed home Guiseppe Mascara’s corner, before the same player lobbed the keeper from Mascara’s long ball on the hour and beat the keeper in a one-on-one from Leo Lima’s pass five minutes later.
Tawfiq Al Hosani scored a consolation for the visitors ten minutes from time, before Correa turned provider to set up Humaid Abbas for the clincher.
But former Italy international goalkeeper Zenga admits he is concerned injuries and suspensions could upset his team’s momentum in the coming weeks.
“We have been unlucky to lose [defenders] Bader Yaqout, Masoud Hassan, Khamis Ahmad Mohammad and Rashid Abdullah continuously. These injuries have been a negative but the rest of the team now feels a responsibility to turn negatives into a positive and achieve results for the team,” he said.
“The next match we will lose Nashat because of the red card, but we will continue to do what we can to maintain our progress in the league. I really think that this [Nashat’s] incident should be relooked at because I don’t believe it was the right call.”
He added of his own dismissal: “In the 32nd minute I told the ref that there was an offside. It was the first time I had opened my mouth. He said to me ‘if you say another word, I will send you off’. So I said ‘send me off right now’ and he did and I think this was premeditated and undeserved.”