Qatar spikers fight past China in final friendly
Hosts put finishing touches to their preparations with four-set victory; Australia edge India.
With just a week to go for the Asian Championship in Tehran, Qatar and China rested some key players and tried out their second options in their friendly volleyball series game. Qatar coach Camilo Soto’s bunch seemed to carry just that much more firepower than his counterpart Raul Lozano’s players and Qatar won 25-19, 25-16, 17-25, 25-19 at the Al Arabi Sports Club on Saturday.
Abubakr and Ibrahim, Qatar’s main spikers, were not fielded while China’s Du and Ji, who had ripped open the Indian defence with their smashes on Friday, were also off the court. It was a chance for both teams to test their bench strength before the big challenge. Qatar’s Belal, Ahmed Gamal and Mahmoud Essam turned in a fine display.
Essam was on target with his smashes, with very few of them being stopped by the Chinese blockers. Belal was effective in his blocks at the net and his occasional powerful serves. Gamal’s spikes from the right regularly found the open spaces on the Chinese court.
China were let down by their spikers. Wang on the left and the left-handed Guo on the right just could not send the ball past the Qatar blockers.
That was what gave Qatar the advantage in the first set. They soon went ahead at 6-2 and then raced to a 11-5 lead. The only time Qatar was surprised was when the smashes came from the centre. But the Chinese setter Mao seemed more focused on getting his teammates to spike from the outside. It seemed China would bridge the gap following some unforced errors from Qatar. But the home team’s early lead helped them stay in front and they won the first set 25-19.
Setter Milos, the schemer in the Qatar ranks, essayed his role to perfection. Credit to Gamal and Essam too who understood exactly what they had to do in the low and high lifts and Qatar benefitted from some great teamwork.
- Qatar bt China
25-19, 25-16, 17-25, 25-19.
- Australia bt India
25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 26-28, 15-12.
In the second set too, China’s spikers found the Qatar blocks hard to break through and Qatar won 25-16. This despite one of their main weapons Mubarak also being pulled out by coach Soto.
In the third set, coach Soto rested even Milos and the responsibility fell on Mehdi. Mehdi was spot on with his setting but Gamal and Ali, though packing a lot of power, were just a bit wayward. It allowed the Chinese to get a grip on the set and move ahead. They soon led 18-13 and closed out the set at 25-17.
Qatar were a lot more focused in the fourth. They inched ahead at 13-11 and soon pulled further away at 18-13. China failed to fight back and Qatar won the set and match at 25-19.
Qatar coach Soto was pleased with the performance. “It is good we have won two matches in a row just ahead of the Asian Championship. It gets the players in the right frame of mind. We tried different players and they did not let us down”.
Chinese assistant coach Juan Manuel said, “We are disappointed. We tried our second line-up in the hope of preparing them for the Asian Championship. But they just did not capitalise on the opportunity.”
In an earlier match, Australia beat India, 25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 26-28, 15-12. India too tried out their second string players who put up a good fight to stretch Australia to five sets.