Bahrain’s Al Najma are Asian champions!
TDT | Manama
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
Bahrain’s Al Najma were last night crowned champions of the 25th Asian Men’s Club League Championship, which came to a thrilling close in Isfahan, Iran.
Najma clinched the coveted title with a come-from-behind 31-30 victory in double overtime against Al Duhail of Qatar in a heart-stopping final.
Veteran Bahrain national team skipper Hussain Al Sayyad fired in the winning goal for Najma with about a minute remaining in the second extra session, and then fellow-international and star goalkeeper Mohammed Abdulhussain made a critical save on an Ahmad Madadi effort that helped seal the win.
Following the match, which needed 80 minutes of on-court action to separate the two sides, Najma were presented their gold medals and champions’ trophy in an awarding ceremony attended by Bahrain Handball Association president Ali Issa.
Najma claimed the Asian clubs title for only the second time in tournament history, adding to their previous triumph in 2017 when the competition was held in Hyderabad, India. Najma were also winners over Duhail in that year’s clincher, 21-16.
To go along with their crown, Najma also booked the sole Asian berth in the 17th IHF Men’s Super Globe, to be held from October 17 to 23 in Saudi Arabia.
This prestigious annual event is contested between 12 champion clubs from continental federations, and Najma will be participating for the second time, following the 2018 edition when they were seventh.
Duhail were also given their silver medals last night, as were bronze-medallists, Al Rayyan of Qatar, who beat Kazma SC of Kuwait 33-26 in the game for third place.
In last night’s final, Al Sayyad finished as the game’s top scorer with a scintillating 11 goals.
He was the only player to finish in double figures. Ahmed contributed four goals before being shown a red card late in the opening overtime, while Montenegrin professional Vuk Lazovic, Mohammed Habib Naser and Qassim Qambar scored three goals apiece.
Cuban Yoel Cuni Morales and Hassan Mirza chipped in with two goals each, while rounding out Najma’s scorers were Mohammed Abdulredha, Adel Mohammed and Mahdi Habib with one goal each.
For Duhail, Japanese import Shinnosuke Tokuda, Rafael Capote and Moustafa Heiba paced their squad with four goals apiece in the loss.
Najma scored the final’s opening goal but Duhail quickly powered ahead 3-1.
The Qataris took a 13-10 lead at the break and led virtually the entire way, going up by as many as four goals in the closing 30-minute period.
But an Ahmed conversion brought Najma back to within 20-22 with five minutes to go, and then an Abdulhussain save followed by an Al Sayyad goal made it 21-22 with two minutes to play.
Al Najma players lift the champions’ trophy
Najma then forced the first overtime after Ahmed scored from the nine-metre line in the very last second of regulation to tie it at 22-all.
In the first overtime session, two goals from Al Sayyad, Ahmed and Naser helped Najma send the game into another 10 minutes, tied at 26-all.
Al Sayyad, Habib and Lazovic were later on target as the scores remained deadlocked at 29-apiece after the first half of the second overtime.
Conversions from Al Sayyad and Tokuda then levelled it at 30-30 with a minute and a half remaining.
That set the stage for Al Sayyad’s superb game winner. Duhail had one last chance to tie it with four seconds left, but they fumbled the possession and did not get a shot off.
The 25th Asian Men’s Club League Championship was organised and run by the Asian Handball Federation (AHF).
Najma appeared on the podium for the fifth time. They had also claimed the silver medals twice in 2015 and last year, and the bronze once in 2001.