Holders Al Arabi Club lost the opening set but bounced back with their brilliant net play to pull off an electrifying four-set victory against high-flying Al Rayyan Club and keep the Qatar Volleyball Cup at their home court on Saturday.
Al Arabi, already winner of the two titles in the season but missed out on the League crown in the closing stages, exerted pressure on the opponents after they launched their comeback in the second set. With each member trying to put in his best, they wrapped up the thrilling match with 23-26 25-23 27-25 25-23 scoreline.
The winners, who earlier clinched the Federation Cup and had beaten the same rivals in the Super Cup, evened the head-to-head record against Al Rayyan for the season – 2-2. The two are now expected to step up their rivalry in the upcoming Emir Cup, the last big domestic event of the season.
QVA President Khalid Ali al Mawlawi and representatives of sponsor Suliman and Brothers Company were present on the occasion and gave away the trophy and medals. Al Arabi Club went home with QR300,000, while GCC and QVA League champions Al Rayyan claimed QR150,000 for the runners-up finish.
Al Arabi coach Ljubomir Travica was thrilled and all praise for his team. He said, “Today, both Al Arabi and Al Rayyan played a very high-level volleyball. It was very important for us to win such a difficult match. I’m very happy for my players.
“The entire team fought hard for each point and every player went for the ball. In volleyball, anything is possible.
“In the last set, there were some mistakes by my team. But then, they improved their concentration and won the crucial points and the match. If the match gone into the fifth set, Al Rayyan might have proved quite strong.
“This is a big win for us. Al Rayyan, I think, are the toughest team in Qatar so I’m very thrilled and want to congratulate all my players for the wonderful job,” added the ex-Al Rayyan coach Travica, who joined Al Arabi during the final stages of the League.
With Al Arabi making errors, Al Rayyan got a head start and led 10-4 in the opening set. Kenyan professional Philip Maiyo and Ibrahim Mohamed brought Al Arabi back 9-10. After that both were tied twice at 18 and 20 but Al Rayyan contrived to stay ahead.
A three-point push was followed by a superb smash from Cristian Savani, one of the two ex-Trentino players, firing a smash. Andre Luiz served into the net and then Thiago da Silva blocked Savani to lock the scores again (24-24).
Then Jan Stokr, another former Italian giansts Trentino player, foiled Maiyo and Waleed also blocked Cuban Yadrian Escobar Silva to clinch 1-0 lead.
Al Arabi reorganised themselves in the second set and their determined efforts saw them reverse the trend of the first one. Now Al Rayyan kept chasing but could catch up with the opponents at 22 and went even up when Savani drilled a spike.
At 23-23, Savani had a smash out and da Silva read Stokr’s mind well. He blocked him to help Al Arabi draw level.
From then on, it was a tight race for the lead despite Al Arabi managing a 6-1 advantage in the third set. Al Rayyan also exerted pressure and evened the scores at seven. With Al Rayyan later playing in patches and making numerous mistakes, Al Arabi got 19-16 and 20-17 ahead Al Rayyan again leveled twice before Al Rayyan’s service went into the net to hand the set point to the opponents.
Al Arabi were twice denied the set but Al Rayyan could not keep up their resistance long. At 25-25, Maiyo rifled a spike to put his team ahead once again. Stokr’s foul allowed Al Arabi win the set and go 2-1 up.
In the fourth, Al Arabi tried to push Al Rayyan and the latter also responded strongly. As a result, both were close till 14-14. At this stage, Al Arabi stepped up their all-round game and opened a 20-17 gap. Only one point separated them when Maiyo was blocked later (23-22).
Then Al Arabi had two match points and the noise by their supporter was deafening. Maiyo failed to clinch the match with his smash but off the next point, Juma Faraj, though did not get a good ball, produced a brilliant drop between Savani and Luiz. Both went for the return and could not do the job well, handing the win to Al Arabi players.
Al Arabi captain Faraj said, “I told you man that we’d go all out. After we lost the League in the last rounds, it was very hard time for us. But we were determined to come back. And tonight, we had to battle hard but we crossed the finish line first.”
Maiyo said he was delighted to do his bit in the fifth title for his team. “It was a difficult match. We managed to pull off the win. All the players worked hard for every ball.
“Especially for myself, I’m very happy for Al Arabi. Ever since I have joined this team, we have won five trophies now and it is wonderful feeling to retain the trophy,” added the Kenyan star.
Al Arabi middle blocker Ibrahim Mohamed commented, “It was a very difficult game. We fought till the last. All the players said after the loss of the first set that ‘let us do it’. It really worked and all of us contributed our maximum to win the title.”
Al Rayyan captain Ali Ishaq said, “We had a good start but we were expecting a hard match. When Al Arabi started to play well, we made many errors which cost us the trophy.”
Al Arabi Club beat Al Rayyan Club 24-26 25-23 27-25 25-23
Al Arabi Club: Omar Ali, Juma Faraj, Saif Lemjid, Renan Ribeiro, Belmin Begic, Abderrahman Bologay, Khaled Shamia, Ghanem al Romaihi, Yadrian Escobar, Thiago da Silva, Philip Maiyo and Ibrahim Mohamed
Coach: Ljubomir Travica
Al Rayyan Club: Usman Ajab, Ali Asadi, Cristian Savani, Mohamed Alaoui, Jan Stokr, Suleiman Saeed (L), Ali Ishaq, Mohamed Hachdadi, Mubarak Dahi Waleed, Ali Hamed, Edin Musabegovic and Andre Luiz
Coach: Daniele Bagnoli. Assistant coach: Karime Ben Ayad