Barring any upset in their last match on Friday, Al Rayyan is all set to defend their GCC Clubs Volleyball Championship on home soil after posting a commendable performance in their 3-0 defeat of Al Ain of UAE in Doha on Wednesday.
The fifth match of the tournament for ‘The Lions’, three-time champions of the annual regional event, was more of a walkover for coach Carlos Schwanke’s lads as they ran away with a straight sets (25-18, 25-21, 25-13) win over the Emirati side.
Al Ain have become the whipping team of the tournament and they are likely to finish without a win having lost all five of their matches so far without winning a set.
Al Rayyan, who next face Al Salam of Oman on Friday, now sits comfortably atop the table of the round-robin format competition with 12 points while second placed Dar Kulaib of Bahrain are on ten.
Prior to Wednesday’s matches, Dar Kulaib were tied with the defending champions on nine points but a 2-3 (20-25, 25-22, 19-25) defeat by Al Salam in the other match of the day, condemned the Bahraini outfit to the second position while Al Salam are now third with nine points.
Just as in most of the previous matches, Duchan Petkovic topped the scorers sheet for Al Rayyan with his 16-point tally proving decisive in the match.
“We are one step to achieving our target. Today’s match went as expected and we are happy that we are almost there. We need to keep our focus and stay in form as we approach Friday’s match. We know it won’t be easy but we are prepared to give it our best shot. We cannot afford to disappoint our fans and officials and so, we are ready to give sweat and blood in the match against Al Salam,” Al Rayyan’s Edin Musa said after the match.
If Al Rayyan defeat Al Salam in their last match on Friday, they will finish on 15 points to lift the trophy for the fourth time in the competition’s 36th year of existence.
The win will make them tally with Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain’s Al Muharraq SC are the competition’s leading winners with 10 trophies, including a run of eight years of back-to-back victories. Al Qadsia of Kuwait are second with seven trophies while Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli are third with five.
For the other Qatari club in the fray Al Arabi, a chance of a second-time win is now a mirage after managing to get only two wins in five matches.
The team had suffered a disappointing 2-3 (31-33, 25-18, 23-25, 25-16, 10-15) loss to Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, in an all-important match on Tuesday to see their chances of lifting the trophy effectively gone with the winds.
Their last match against Dar Kulaib on Friday, which is also the last match of the tournament, can only take them to the second position at the most, which is not even guaranteed as the other teams have to lose for the position to be assured.
In the other match of the day, Al Ahli of Bahrain trounced four-time winners Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia 3-0 (25-15, 25-23,25-12).
The Bahraini side, who have never won the championship in their history, showed that experience and past achievements count for nothing as they took the Saudi team to the cleaners in what was another one-sided affair.
Al Hilal had been one of the pre-tournament favourites but their performances in Doha belittle the tag they carried into the championship.
The Saudi team are finishing the seven-team tournament in the sixth position with seven points from two wins, having played all their six matches.
Al Ahli who currently have eight points, on the other hand, are in the battle for the second position as a most likely win against Al Ain on Friday will push them to 11 points to force a competition between them, Dar Kulaib and Al Arabi.
Written by: Victor Bolorunduro