Dubai: A fortnight’s break in the Etisalat Pro-League won’t disrupt league leaders Al Nasr’s winning rhythm according to coach Walter Zenga, who intends to emerge from the sabbatical with renewed vigour.
The Blue Wave lead the table with seven points from three games, having beaten ten-man Al Shabab 4-2 in Al Mamza on Friday.
A Guiseppe Mascara brace, book-ending strikes by Nashat Akram and Bruno Correa, gave Al Nasr victory in a hard-fought Dubai derby.
International friendlies and Etisalat Cup matches will fill the void in the meantime, but Zenga isn’t concerned that it will wreck momentum.
“I look at the positives instead of the negatives,” said Zenga, who has taken Al Nasr to second and third in the league in the last two years as he bids to end the club’s 27-year wait for silverware.
“I can recover my players in this time off and we can take to training with smiles and happiness knowing that we are in first place.
“They don’t need to feel the pressure of being first, only the beauty of enjoying their football and the joy, pleasure and happiness we can get from our game.”
Zenga added: “I told the players at the end of the Al Shabab match that the real work starts now. Last year it took us the first three games to get started — we were bottom of the league but we finished second. This year we’ve started well, but if we are working for first we need to start the hard work now. We have not made a mistake in the first three games but there are still 21 matches until the end.
“We’ve turned the negatives of last season into positives for this year. We’re concentrating on the mentality and psychology of the players — and they are growing up.”
Al Shabab coach Marcos Paqueta praised Al Nasr for their victory on Friday but also rued his side’s bad luck.
“Al Nasr are very strong in defence,” he said. “They close their ranks and play quick on the counter. This is going to make the mission difficult for any team that faces them. Despite this we could create chances, it’s just that didn’t translate into goals.
“It just wasn’t our day. A lot of factors during the game made it difficult for us. We started well in the first quarter but mistakes meant we received two goals. This meant the team had to go in search of goals, leaving space behind.
“Even though we were a man down we tried. We got one goal back. But playing against a technical team like Al Nasr made it difficult to score. I congratulate my players for fighting the whole game and never surrendering.”