The return of Aruna Quadri from injury was greeted with a narrow defeat after the Nigerian and his compatriot – Bode Abiodun suffered a semifinal home loss with Sporting of Portugal to visiting French side – GV Hennebont in the ETTU Cup.
Quadri, who has been out of action for two weeks following the injury he coped at the Portugal Open last month was listed in the three-man Sporting team that faced star-studded French champion in Lisbon at the weekend.
Englishman Liam Pitchford became the star player of the night after recoding two wins for Hennebont in the crucial encounter.
Quadri started the campaign for Sporting against Belgian international – Cedric Nuytinck and what looked like a bad start, Quadri fell 9-11 to the Belgian. But he won back the heart of the home supporters with a convincing three wins 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 to record a 3-1 victory against the southpaw Belgian star.
Inform Pitchford restored parity for the visitor with an emphatic 3-1 (11-9, 9-11, 10-12, 6-11) over Sporting’s Diogo Carvalho.
Another returnee star for Sporting – Joao Monteiro who has been out of action for months following a back operation since last year announced his comeback with a close win over Chinese star – Sheng Peng with a 3-2 (12-10, 11-5, 7-11, 9-11, 11-3) win.
The explosive tie betweek Quadri and Pitchford produced the highlight of the encounter with both players entertaining the fans with their scintillating performance but it was the Briton that had an edge over the Nigerian with a overwhelming 3-0 (8-11, 14-16, 8-110 win to put the match at 2-2.
In the deciding encounter between Carvalho and Nuytinck, it was looking as if Sporting was coasting to victory after the Portuguese international claimed a 2-0 (12-10, 11-7) lead. But the tide turned for the worst for the home team as Nuytinck shocked the home fans with three wins in a row (7-11, 6-11, 8-11) to give the visitor a 3-2 win away from France.
The second leg holds on March 22 in France with winner progressing to the final of the second prestigious European table tennis tournament.