NANJING: Asian champions Qatar got their act together in the final five minutes and edged Tunisia 26-23 in their opening match of the men’s handball at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing yesterday.
At the Jiangning Sports Center, Qatar tied first 2-2, 3-3 and then 4-4 before a push by the African team, led by Oussama Ghacem, sent them five goals clear by 17 minutes.
Despite suffering from some rough play by the rivals, the Asian champions however began reducing the margin but Ghacem, who struck seven goals in nine attempts, and Mustafa Haz Romdhane (four goals) kept Tunisia ahead.
They had the five-goal advantage once more in the second session.
With 11 minutes to go, Qatar unleashed a 7-1 run to end the challenge of Tunisia.
Abdelaziz Helali reduced the gap to one goal (19-20). But two quick goals widened the deficit and before the panic buttons were pressed, Qatar managed to pull close.
Two goals each by Amine Guehis and Noomen Ahmadi suddenly pushed Qatar ahead by a goal with three minutes left for the finish.
Guehis slammed his sixth and crucial goal of the match in the 58th minute and soon, Helali netted his third goal of the match to hand Qatar a three-goal cushion. Anouar Ben Abdallah cut down the margin and Jovo Damjanovic smashed a goal to seal victory.
Qatar were led by Guehis, who emerged as the top-scorer for the winners with six goals. And some commendable support was offered by Noomen Ahmadi (five goals) and Amor Dhiab (four goals).
Last year, Dhiab had played an exceptional game against South Korea in the final of the Asian Youth Games in the same city and boosted Qatar with his contribution to the title.
Other scorers for Qatar were Omar Abdelfattah (3), Abdulaziz Helali (3), Jovo Damjanovic (2), Salem Braham (2) and Faruk Colo (1)
Qatar’s next match is against European qualifiers Slovenia. With one victory in the three-team group, Qatar has brightened their chances of reaching the semi-finals.
Qatar team coach Chouaib Kafi said the Qatar Handball Federation President Ahmed Al Shaabi was pleased with the win in the first match. He also added: “The Tunisians were tough and the victory came with some difficulty. My team showed its real mettle and Omar was decisive in the defence and he blocked the opponents from causing any danger to the team.
“We have taken a big step forward. We would not be satisfied with just qualifying for the next stage. But we’d try to play better handball in the next match. I would like to congratulate my players for the first win but we have a long way to go and be ready for all the challenges,” he added.
“We will not celebrate for this win as we have a strong match coming up against Slovenia. We’ll celebrate only when we ensure our entry to the last four stage. We’ll watch the match between Tunisia and Slovenia closely and then draw our strategy,” added Kafi.
Earlier in a group A match, defending champions Egypt got the better of Norway 28-27.