Taipei, Chinese Taipei, April 18, 2019 – Qatar’s Al-Rayyan Club survived a sturdy challenge from Est Cola to put it past the fighting Thais in hard-fought four-setter 26-24 25-18 22-25 25-20 in their Pool C encounter of the 2019 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship at the University of Taipei (Tianmu) Gymnasium on Thursday.

Tall and powerful Kamil Rychlicki was on fire throughout the game, contributing a fantastic 24 points to the Qatari side’s victory including 23 attacks from 39 attempts, while Jakkraphop Saengsee led Est Cola with 16 points from 15 kills and one block.

Thailand’s Est Cola, a combined team of star spikers form different clubs at Thailand League, cruised comfortably from the beginning of the first set. Hard-hitting Chakkrit Chandahuadong, left-hander Pusit Phonarin and veteran Kitsada Somkane took turns penetrating the Qatari defence with their aggressive spikes which made the on-going game a tight battle. Mawin Maneewong’s great serve put the Thai side in front 20-18, but Al-Rayyan improved their offensive tactics and changed the momentum in the set. Both sides traded points through their aggression and consistency, but the Qataris fared better to win the hotly-contested set 26-24.

Winning the first set, Al-Rayyan kept the pace in the second set to lead commandingly 4-0 before the smaller Thais hit back, with Chakkrit and Kitsada keeping their good company in the team’s attacks. However, the Qataris, whose height average is 195cm against the Thais’ 187cm, started to come up with monster blocks, thanks to their height advantage over the net.

Al-Rayyan continued their exceptional attacks, while Est Cola sought chances of counter-attacking. Leading 24-18, the Qataris remained in fine form. To the Al-Rayyan’s delight, a spike from Jakkraphop Saengsee went out which gave the Qataris a comfortable 25-18 win.

The third set was close as both sides put their utmost effort. At 10-10, Est Cola put their acts together with scintillating blocks from Kissada Nilsawai, well-placed serves from Mawin and combination play for an impressive 16-13 lead. However, the Qataris, who emerged as the champions at the last year’s Arab Volleyball Clubs Championship, closed a long rally with successful spikes for 12-12. From then, both sides gave it all what they had, making it all level again 20-20, but the Thai side, clearly annoyed by the rivals’ success in the first two sets, performed well defensively to lead 24-21. They allowed the much taller Qataris one more point from Kittithad Nuwaddee’s erratic serve to wrap up the thrilling set 25-22.

After a set win, Est Cola played confidently with more determination in the fourth set, which they took an initial 15-13 lead before the Qataris turned things around and counter-attacked well to catch up with the Thais 15-15 and stormed on their superiority. As Al-Rayyan led 23-19, Marko Vukasinovic carried out a sharp attack to stretch it to 24-19 and allowed the rivals only one more point to clinch the set 25-20 and match.

“The first match is always tricky. As we arrived here in Taipei, we had only two hours in practice. So, it’s very hard for us to play the first match. Also, the Thai team played with different volleyball we get used to. The beginning of the set was very difficult. We had to learn things around and situations and after we got information from our stats, we then could set up what we had to play better and better. Nonetheless, I also praised the Thai team. They are a good team,” Al-Rayyan Club head coach Carlos Eduardo commented after the match.


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