Police crush Al Rayyan, inch closer to elusive QVA League crown

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Police thrashed former champions Al Rayyan Club and moved closer to winning the elusive QVA League crown this season. At the Al Arabi Club on Friday, the twice runners-up brushed off the resistance by the rivals, posting a 25-17 25-16 26-24 win in 63 minutes.

This was their 17th victory in 19 matches, which raised their points tally to 51. In their final League match against defending champions Al Arabi on February 15, they have to avoid a 0-3 or 1-3 defeat and they may end their title wait on that day.

This match was more of a make or break affair for Al Rayyan Club than Police, who have been in the pole position after collecting 48 points from 16 triumphs in 18 games so far.

Still there was a great deal of pressure on Police as they needed full three points to consolidate their position at the top further. So a winning by 3-0 or 3-1 score would have been ideal for the cops. And they did exactly that, with their all-round superiority.

Police looked cool and settled. They went about their business in a comfortable manner. With No 2 brooking no resistance off his smashes and middle player John Chigbo and Nadr Abobacr excelling, they avenged their 0-3 crushing at the hands of Al Rayyan in the first meeting of the season in November.

Mads was the highest scorer for the winners with 16 points. He got a commendable support from middle players John Chigbo (12 points), Nadr Abobakr (9) and Vantislav (9).

On the other hand, Al Rayyan Club were rattled, trailing by big margins in both the first two sets. To a large extent, their poor reception was their biggest drawback. The players in the middle also failed to make impression during the blocks. It was only in the third set that a pep talk by the coach galvanised them and they forced extra points before Chigbo blocked opposite Dusan Petkovic for the superb victory.

Al Rayyan Club, who have chosen to replace coach Igor Arbutina with Brazilian Carlos Schwanke after the League, had suddenly breathed a new life into their campaign after their five-set victory over Al Arabi Club in the last match. For them, Petkovic and Yosleider Cala contributed 16 each.

But the defeat meant their points tally stood at 43 points from 15 wins in 19 matches. Even if they crush Al Shamal Club in their final League match, they will not be able to make any favourable impact on the title contenders.

Now the eyes will be riveted on Saturday’s featured match between second-placed El Jaish and defending champions Al Arabi Club, who are in the third spot with 45 points from 15 triumphs in 18 games. For both, this is a must-win game and sadly, only one of them will benefit from the difficult situation.

If El Jaish, who have 48 points from 16 wins in 19 matches, triumph, they will seal the fate of Al Arabi. Should Al Arabi win with three points or two points, they will knock the army team out of the title race, maintaining mathematical hopes for another title.

Earlier in a match for pride, Al Khor Club posted a 25-20 25-23 22-25 25-23 victory over Al Shamal Club. Their fifth victory in 19 games raised their points tally to 14. Though the winners continued to hold the ninth spot in the table, they certainly gained some consolation after having lost the previous clash in five sets.

Rafael, Tulio and Casiano were the architects of the Al Khor win, helping the team especially in the fightback in the last two sets. For Al Shamal, who suffered 11th loss in 19 matches for a haul of 21 points, appeared to be forcing the extension points. At 21-24, they saved two points to reach 23-24 but netted the serve to lose the match.

Results
Al Khor Club beat Al Shamal Club 25-20 25-23 22-25 25-23
Police beat Al Rayyan Club 25-17 25-16 26-24