Ahli beats Rayyan, stays in race
TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK
DOHA AL AHLI Club kept its Heir Apparent Cup volleyball final dream alive with a fighting fourset victory over Al Rayyan at Al Arabi Club indoor hall, on Monday. After having lost the first clash in the best-of-threematch series, it bounced back as it won by 26-24 25-22 26-28 25- 16 with setter Amir Hussain putting up a superb display to keep his spikers busy.
With this triumph, Ahli forced the third and decider, which will be played on May 23 at 7 pm.
Al Arabi was also involved in an entertaining match against El Jaish, which lasted four sets. The former however emerged the winner by 25-17 26-28 25-23 30- 28 and entered the final with 2-0.
El Jaish failed to settle down in the opening set and the loss of that set proved quite costly, with the team failing to make up for that despite its brilliant comeback attempt.
Osmany Juantorena of world clubs volleyball champion Trentino and Ivan Miljkovic, one of Serbia’s biggest stars, combined well with setter Sayeed Juma to keep the Arabi attack firing throughout the match.
Libero Renan Ribiero played superbly at the back and Leonardo, Juma Faraj and Syed Juma also came up with useful contributions, which maintained the momentum for Arabi after the two sides shared the opening two sets.
After going up 15-10 at one stage in the third set, Arabi was threatened by Jaish with a spirited rally through Hristo Bujon and Mithar. Jaish nearly caught up with the rival as it came as close as 17-18 later. But Trentino player Juantorena suddenly opened up a 23-18 advantage with strong serves that rattled the opponents.
Then Hristo claimed two points with his deceptively looping serves to make the scores 21- 23. Miljkovic drilled a spike into the Jaish’s court to get Arabi within one point of taking a 2-1 lead. Hristo followed it up with two thunderbolt smashes, which brought Jaish within one point of forcing the extra points. The tension was felt as both could not control the ball well but when Arabi got another chance, it smashed home to win the crucial point and the set wrest the lead.
In the fourth, Arabi built up a comfortable 20-16 lead. But backed by vocal fans, Jaish rallied to make it 21-all with Hristo leading the way. Then it was Mithar, whose smart play fetched Jaish the set point (24-22). Arabi however did not let it convert. Jaish got four more opportunities to seal the set but it could not.
Finally, it was Arabi, which got its first chance to clinch the match when Mithar was blocked. Then Mithar tried to get a touch out but the Arabi players were intelligent enough to take off their hands when the Jaish player fired the ball and the Arabi team wrapped up the match and entered the final.
Al Arabi coach Adel Sennoun said: “Not only the professional players, the home players also gave a good account of themselves.
I’m happy to have the team in the final but we made a lot of mistakes. Maybe there was some tension as Jaish tried to come back into the match. We’ll try not to repeat the mistakes in the final on May 25.” Ahli grabbed the opening two sets to exert pressure on Rayyan, who responded through professionals Lionel Marshall and Igor Omercen. The pair got a good support form Thomas and Regin.
After throwing away the 17-14 lead, Rayyan and Ahli went neck and neck till 23-23. Ahli got three match points but Rayyan foiled all of them. Omercen’s sizzling serve set up the first set point for Rayyan, which went on to gain the next point and the set with three players blocking Salvador.
In the fourth set, Ahli began distancing itself after 7-7. Later it was 19-13 up with Geraldo and Salvador displaying effective spiking. Mohammad Bishri and Ali Ahmed also produced good smashes and Ahli forged ahead 23-16. A touch out gave Ahli the match-point and with Rayyan’s Omercen landing his shot wide, Ahli clinched the match and stayed into the contention for the third and decisive clash two days later.