IT WAS a case of so near, yet so far for Al Rayyan as their bid for a hat-trick of GCC Clubs title fell flat after losing to Oman’s Al Salam in a crucial game.
And Bahrain’s Dar Kulaib grabbed the opportunity to win the title.
Going into their last round-robin match against the Omani side at the Ali bin Hamad Al Attiyah arena, two-time defending champions Rayyan, with 12 points, just needed to extend the game to five sets to emerge as victorious.
But in an anticlimax, they lost 0-3 and then saw Dar Kulaib beating Qatar’s other representative Al Arabi 3-1 to seal their maiden title. Dar Kulaib finished the round-robin format with 13 points.
Rayyan had to be content with a third-place finish.
Even though they and Al Salam ended up with the same tally (12), the latter was adjudged the runners-up by virtue of having won more number of matches.
“We were almost there, but couldn’t really finish it off. We entered the court thinking we could be the champions
and ended up finishing third. Obviously, we’re very disappointed with the
outcome. This is a big blow to our ambitions,” rued Rayyan coach Carlos Schwanke.
The Brazilian had taken charge of the team from Croat Igor Arbutina after the conclusion of Qatar League.
Rayyan had finished third in his first tournament in charge, at the Arab Championship in Bahrain, where they lost to eventual champions Al Ahli in the semifinal.
“Our finishing left a lot to be desired. We’ve to start from the scratch. The season isn’t over yet. We’ve two important cup tournaments (Qatar Cup and Emir’s Cup), and we hope to make amends,” added Schwanke.
Though Rayyan won the Gulf title on three occasions (2011, 2015 and 2016), they had never done it at home and the wait continues.
They also missed out on the chance of being joint-fourth in the overall winners table along with Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal.
Senior player Ali Ishaq said it was a timely wake-up call for the team.
“We aren’t looking for any scapegoats for our defeat. After all, we were just one point away from winning the title. We’ve learnt our lessons and hope to move on from here, rather than brooding over the loss. We want to apologise to our supporters. We promise to comeback stronger,” said Ali.