Dubai: At the pre-match conference ahead of his side’s Arabian Gulf Cup final on Friday, Krunoslav Jurcic, the Al Nasr coach, had said his men would not waste time trying to assert themselves against rivals Shabab Al Ahli.
The Croat manager was, however, left pleasantly bewildered when Alvaro Negredo’s record eighth second strike put his side on course for their second title.
It happened so quickly that Jurcic might have barely reached his seat in the dugout after watching the kick-off when he was back at the touchline — screaming in joy.
“It was a big surprise and it was great to win!” the Croat manager told Gulf News just before boarding the team bus that would take his side in a late night procession back to the club from Al Wasl Club’s Zabeel Stadium, the venue for the 2-1 victory.
Jurcic is known to wear his heart on his sleeve and throughout the game, he intermittently went from rousing Al Nasr’s fans to riling match officials with his emotional outbursts; the latter earning him a caution and then his marching orders in second-half injury-time alongside another Al Nasr official.
The sending off meant that Jurcic wasn’t able to attend the post-match debriefing where his assistant Josip Omrcen took his place at the dais.
The kick-off that led to Negredo scoring looked well-rehearsed, but Omrcen admitted the entire bench was surprised.
“We didn’t practice that at all; it was an idea the players involved came up with on the spot,” Omrcen said.
“We expect players to be creative and players do get creative during a match, but this was a surprise to us all and something we hadn’t expected. It was great that it all worked out well, but as far as coaching the team for the game was concerned, we had focused on playing more possession football and in the end we made a good game of it and won the cup.”
— The author is a sports journalist based in the UAE