Police’s pride and reputation were on the line in the last match of the QVA League against 25-time winners Al Arabi Club on Wednesday.
It was a slow start for the Cops, who had already won the maiden League crown with a game to spare. And they were 0-2 sets down and faced a match point before staging their gritty recovery.
Eventually, Police managed to overcome the challenge of Al Arabi Club at their home court and pulled off their 18th victory in the League by 22-25 19-25 25-16 28-26 15-10 with their star player Mads Ditlevsen drilling a huge spike in the rival court.
This was the first time in the League that Police, who earlier twice finished runners-up and twice in third place as their best performance, figured in a five-setter. With this triumph, they logged 53 points from an impressive 18-2 win-loss record.
The two matches that Police lost were against former champions Al Rayyan Club and El Jaish.
In terms of position, Al Arabi Club had more at stake than Police in today’s match. If they had clinched it, they would have leapfrogged El Jaish in the second spot. And they started with plenty of determination despite falling 2-7 behind in the early stage of the first set.
However, they started regaining their foothold and tied the scores at 14-14 as Fabricio, Jorge, Ahmad and Thiago controlled the net. After locking the scores three more times, they forged 24-21 ahead and they got 1-0 up when the Dane Ditlevesen smashed the ball long from a slightly poor midcourt position.
Al Arabi continued their surge and kept hopes of getting the victory alive. They again piled pressure on the opponents and pulled 16-9 and 21-18 clear. Later an ace by Ahmad handed them a comfortable 2-0 edge.
Police took some time to regroup and after neck and neck proceedings, John Chigbo was blocked by Thiago and Al Arabi had a golden chance to seal the victory and second place. But a close call allowed Police to force extra points. Police failed to force the win two times but off the third set point, left-handed Fabricio fired a shot to make it 2-1.
It was now time for Al Arabi to feel the heat. The fourth and tie-break set saw Police dominate as they targeted libero and managed to gain many points off the weak-link. With Chigbo, Nader Abobakr, Neto and Fabricio coming up with cracking spikes and superb blocks, Police wiped out the deficit and went to bag the match in 1 hour and 57 minutes.
This was the third time that Al Arabi landed the third position in the League.
Police coach Damian Arredondo said, “We’re extremely delighted with the kind of finish that we had today. We were 0-2 down and the defeat was just one point away. My players showed tremendous determination, coolness and team-work to come back and win the match against strong team like Al Arabi.
“We had already won the League before. Still we wanted to finish the League on a winning note. I’m really satisfied that we could achieve our objective. I hope the players will continue to work at the same high level and the Cup competitions are going to be quite competitive,” he added.
Chigbo said, “We are happy to win the League for the first time. Though this match had nothing to do with the title, we wanted to show that we are a champion team today. I am delighted that we could do it and want to thank my teammates for this superb effort.”
Police beat Al Arabi Club 22-25 19-25 25-16 28-26 15-10 in one hour and 57 minutes