Al Nasr qualify for ACL

Al Nasr qualify for ACL

By Anthony Yacoub

Al Nasr qualified to the Group Stages of the 2013 AFC Champions League with a dramatic 3-2 win over Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv Tashkent at Al Maktoum Stadium last night.

Akmal Kholmatov (L) battles with Al Nasr's Khalid Ibrahim

Akmal Kholmatov (L) battles with Al Nasr’s Khalid Ibrahim

Al Nasr found it very difficult early to overcome Lokomotiv Tashkent who appeared very organized and dominated much of the first half through the movements of Dilshod Djabbarov who came close to opening the scoring with his strong shot that brushed the post and went out after just five minutes.

Japan international striker Takayuki Morimoto, on loan from Serie A club Catania, gave Al Nasr the lead in the 30th minute against the run of play when he met Leo Lima’s pass beating the offside trap before shooting beyond Pavel Bugalo.

In the second half, Al Nasr regained the initiative but failed to add a second goal despite attempts by Brazilian Bruno Cesar and Giuseppe Mascara and they paid the price after Lokomotiv managed to find an equalizer when Victor Karpenko’s 71st minute low range shot hit the post and beat Al Nasr keeper Ahmad Shambih.

Five minute later, Lokomotiv took the lead after Akmal Kholmatov’s free kick went in to silence the home crowd. However Habib Fardan, who scored the winning goal for UAE against Vietnam on Wednesday in their 2015 AFC Asian Cup Qualifier, restored parity when he headed home from a Mascara’s free kick two minutes later.

As extra time was looming, Djabbarov brought down Humaid Ahmed in the box and Leo Lima calmly slotted home to give Al Nasr the dramatic victory in the last minute of the game.

Al Nasr coach Walter Zenga was delighted with the troops after the game.

“The match was hard for both teams,” said Zenga.

“We knew the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents throughout the match and I’m happy that we qualified to the Group Stage because we deserve to be there.

“I was so happy with the reaction of the players who managed to make a good comeback after trailing 2-1. We managed to equalize and then we scored the winning goal

“It was a sweet victory and we are ready to play in the Group Stage and be one of the good teams there.”

While disappointed with the result, Lokomotiv coach Ravshan Mukimov was proud of his teams efforts and is already looking forward to having another opportunity to qualify.

“The result is really disappointing,” said Lokomotiv coach Ravshan Mukimov. “It was an interesting encounter which was entertaining for the fans and both teams deserved to win tonight. There were a lot of goals and I was hoping that we could advance to the Group Stage.

“We lost the game tonight but we will never give up. We will go back home and look again for a chance to qualify to the Group Stage. Today we should have at least got a draw, which would have been a fair result for the two teams.”

With this win, Al Nasr ensured that UAE will have four teams in the ACL group stage after earlier Al Shabab Al Arabi booked a place defeating Iran’s Saba Qom 5-3 on penalties after being locked at 1-1 after extra time.

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