Al Arabi Club win Emir Cup 21st time

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Holders Al Arabi Club overwhelmed GCC and League champions Al Rayyan Club in straight sets to win the Emir Cup Volleyball Championship with surprising ease on Saturday.

At the home court, Al Arabi had to battle hard in the opening set but they rattled the rivals in the second with compact play and went on to seal their 21st victory in the final by 25-23 25-14 25-23.

Qatar Olympic Committee Vice-President and FIBA Asia President Sheikh Saud bin Ali al Thani was the chief guest at the closing ceremony. QVA President Khalid Ali al Mawlawi and he gave away the prizes and trophy.

Al Arabi took home QR1,000,000, while Al Rayyan got richer by QR550,000. Juantorena Osmany was declared the best player of the final and was rewarded with QR10,000, sponsored by Suliman & Brothers Company.

Former Trentino player Osmany commented,”Uchikov played very well. I’m very happy for Al Arabi. We played with out heart and never lost the head.

“This is possibly my last final as I’m going to the national team. I want to thank all my friends in the Al Arabi team. I will go home with so many good memories of this final,” added Osmany.

Al Arabi coach Ljubomir Travica said after the final,”It is a very big victory for us. I’m very happy that all the players played brilliantly in a strong and difficult final. Before the match, it was not possible to think it would finish 3-0.

“We came into the match with some tactics. We did not want to make mistakes in the service and then created pressure through block and defence. The second set was the turning point. It is very important for me that my team played as one unit tonight.

“I’m delighted to win two very important cups for Al Arabi and I want to thank everybody for contributing to such a good season for us,” added Travica.

This was the fourth title of the season for Al Arabi, who began it with the Federation Cup victory. Then, they defeated Al Rayyan to win the Super Cup. Al Arabi finished second in the League behind Al Rayyan. The two played in the Qatar Cup as well but Al Arabi proved to be a better side.

Al Arabi have a shining record in this championship, having won 20 of their previous 26 finals so far. This was their 11th victory in the Emir Cup final over Al Rayyan, appeared in 23 finals, prior to the latest one, but won only 11 of them as yet.

This was the 15th Emir Cup final between the two teams and Al Arabi, having a big 10-4 edge over the rivals, recorded their triumph in an emphatic manner, putting a great deal of pressure on the opponents from the second set onwards..

Al Rayyan have been suffering from the setter problems. And it was obvious as they first they used Ali Assadi but he could not have the team moving.

Then Al Rayyan brought in Andre Luiz but that move also did not pay off. Assadi hardly used Venoro, who recently powered Zenit Kazan to the European Clubs Championship, in the beginning.

And later with the ball not being set properly mostly, the Cuban was not much effective, which increased pressure on Savani. On the other hand, Osmany and Bulgarian professional Nikolay Uchikov displayed total commitment and kept Al Arabi close.

When Al Arabi trailed 21-23, it was at this stage that just turned around the game. Thiago Da Silva’s serves did not give Al Rayyan a chance to spike the ball well. Uchikov delivered a potent spike to earn the set point and clinched it with another blast as well.

Al Arabi looked more organised in the second set and provided the cover to their smashers. Their blocking was also superb. With Osmany and Uchikov again firing the ball from both wings, Ibrahim Said, Juma Faraj and Thiago da Silva controlling the net, Al Arabi raced away with the second set at 14 and forged 13-8 ahead in the third.

However, Venero produced some deadly smashes to bring Al Rayyan to draw level (22-22). But his service went into the net and Al Arabi were 23-23 ahead. Osmany’s brilliant overhead return was finished cleanly by Uchikov to get the first match point before a shouting Al Arabi fans.

Da Silva was blocked neatly by Hachdadi which saved one match point. But off the other one, Osmany rose from the middle to fire a winner deep and Al Arabi sealed the fate of the rivals.

Faraz said,”It may be a surprise result for those who doubt about Al Arabi. Volleyball is not about the individual players. It is about the team effort. Tonight, we were better than them, creating the pressure through our smart service.

“We almost lost in the quarter-finals. Then we were down in the semi-finals before winning it. Now we rolled to the trophy. Surely this final is quite special for me. Now we can go to holiday with these wonderful memories,” said Faraj.

Ali Ishaq of Al Rayyan said,”It was a big surprise for us. We know we are better than Al Arabi but we could not show it. I don’t know what happened to my team. We played badly in all departments. I think Al Arabi played an incredible match and congratulations to them.”

Bulgarian Uchikov said,”I’m very happy for the entire team. We tried to enjoy the final as we were smiling and laughing. The first set was very close. With some luck and our efforts, we won it and were on the top.

“This tournament is becoming important in the world as a lot of big stars are coming to play here. If I’m free next year and get a chance, I’ll certainly be back here,” added the UPCN player.

Al Arabi’s experienced middle blocker Ibrahim Said said,”It was a game of pressure. Thanks god, we won it. We deserved to win as we really worked hard.

“For the past few seasons, we’re having very good time and results. We’ll keep working hard for more,” added Said.