Al Najma keep semis hopes alive
TDT | Manama
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
Bahrain’s Al Najma kept their semi-final hopes alive yesterday in the 25th Asian Men’s Club League Handball Championship, currently being held in Isfahan, Iran.
The Bahrainis claimed their third successive victory in Group B of the competition’s preliminary round following a 36-33 triumph against home side Shahid Shameli Kazeroon.
Najma held a commanding 23-15 lead at the interval and extended their advantage to 10 goals, 32-22, with an Adel Mohammed effort 11 minutes into the second half.
But the Iranians valiantly fought back, getting to within four, 28-32, with less than 10 minutes to go.
Najma, however, replied with three unanswered conversions from Bilal Basham, Montenegrin professional Vuk Lazovic and Hasan Mirza.
A Mohammed Ahmed goal then made it 36-30 with just over two minutes left to virtually ice the game for the Bahrainis, although Shahid Shameli scored the last three to reduce Najma’s winning margin.
Najma goalkeeper Mohammed Abdulhussain was named the Match Most Valuable Player.
He played a key role for the victors and made a number of saves to help ward off their opponents.
Cuban import Yoel Cuni Morales finished as Najma’s top scorer with five goals, while Mohammed Ahmed, Mohammed Habib and Qassim Qambar each had four.
Mohammed Abdulredha, Adel Mohammed, Basham, Mirza and Mahdi Habib all chipped in with three goals, while Tunisian Skander Zaied contributed two goals and Mohammed Mirza and Lazovic each had one.
Najma’s win was their third in four tries, after losing to defending champions Kuwait SC in their opening game but then defeating Al Duhail of Qatar and Junior Club of China in their next two fixtures.
In other Group B games yesterday, Kuwait beat RKOR Tashkent of Uzbekistan 37-30 and Duhail routed Junior Club 40- 26.
Those results put Duhail and Kuwait in first and second place on their group table with one preliminary round matchday to go today.
Najma are third, although all three clubs are on six points apiece, with goal difference determining their classification.
Shahid Shameli, Tashkent and Junior Club are fourth through sixth, respectively.
In today’s contests, Kuwait face Junior Club, Duhail play Shahid Shameli and Najma take on Tashkent.
These scores will determine the semi-finalists from Group B.
The tournament, organised by the Asian Handball Federation (AHF), continues until Saturday.
The top two teams from each group following this single round-robin move on to the knockout semi-finals on Thursday, while the others will play in the classification fixtures.
The gold and bronze medal games will then take place on the final day of the championship.
The winners of the Asian championship will qualify for the 17th IHF Men’s Super Globe, to be held from October 17 to 23 in Saudi Arabia.
Najma are hoping to replicate or improve on their finish in last year’s Asian clubs competition held in Hyderabad, India, where they won the silver medals.
Najma players defend their Shahid Shameli counterpart during yesterday’s game