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Zenga's media blackout gets darker after home loss to Al Ahli.

Dubai Walter Zenga's relationship with the press reached its lowest ebb on Tuesday after Al Nasr lost 2-1 at home to Al Ahli Jeddah of Saudi Arabia in Group C of the Asian Champions League.

The former Italian shot-stopper, who in recent weeks allegedly insulted a reporter and also had to apologise for saying "everyone is crazy in this country", has since refused to speak in English or even attend post-match conferences altogether.

After Tuesday's match, the 51-year-old Inter Milan stalwart simply refused to answer questions on the game because his Italian interpreter wasn't present. He upped and left after giving a short brief in perfect English to bemused reporters.

Goals from Victor Simoes and Taisser Al Jasem found Al Nasr wanting after Amara Diane, who had countless efforts on goal, could only notch a consolation.

Al Jasem's long ball on 27 minutes left Al Nasr keeper Abdullah Moosa, defender Ali Amiri and Ahli striker Simoes in a three-way crush for possession. Simoes chipped and rolled over the sliding pair on the edge of the area and followed the ball in as it bobbled over the line.

Al Jasem again played hero on 50 minutes running onto a through ball on the left wing before cutting inside to beat Amiri and shoot. His effort caught a deflection off Mohammad Ali and crept past Moosa. Up the other end, Al Nasr pulled one back on 52 minutes after Amara Diane ran onto an identical build-up pass and kept his marker at bay to slot home.

Clarified

Zenga, who has clarified that league form must come before continental, said: "We started too shy in the first 20 minutes. In my opinion, a draw would have been the minimum. But the younger players did all they could and we are very happy for them. We are still in charge to qualify and go to Jeddah to win the game and take back what we lost.

"I'm proud of my youngsters who showed heart, passion and pride. I believe that they can play a huge role for the club in the future. For the other players, we are very sad for this loss. But this is football, some chapters you win and in others you lose. But regarding our youth programme, I think everyone saw today that they are the future, not only of this club but also the UAE national team."

With that Zenga, who took Al Nasr to third in the league last season and qualified them to Asia for the first time in their history, walked out of the conference. Gunning for a second place finish this year, the hotly tipped successor to Claudio Ranieiri at Inter, has worked miracles at a perennially relegation-threatened club. But somewhere between the lines, it seems he believes appreciation of his work is being overlooked or even snubbed by the press.

Elsewhere, Al Jazira beat Esteghlal 2-1 in Tehran. Goals from Juma Abdullah and Bare on six and 73 minutes cancelled out Ferydoon Zandi's 69th minute equaliser to maintain Al Jazira's 100 per cent record in the group phase and consolidate their dominance in Group A.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Apr 5, 2012
Words:537
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