Home » FIVB M: Iran edge China in thrilling five-setter in Tokyo

FIVB M: Iran edge China in thrilling five-setter in Tokyo

by WoV
source: fivb.org

Iran edged China 3-2 (23-25, 25-21, 29-31, 25-15, 15-13) in a thrilling match in the FIVB Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday.


Spiker Zarini Hamzeh for Iran

The match lasted two hours and nine minutes.

Hamzeh Zarini led Iran with 27 points, while China’s top scorer was Bian Hongmin with 16. China outblocked Iran 144, but Iran outserved their opponents 12-3.
Iran started off the match very focused, with Hamzeh Zarini pulverizing the ball in the opening stages as the Asian champions opened a three-point lead at the first technical timeout. But Iran were also making errors and China were able to close from 9-13 to 13-13, with Liang Chunlong doing some good defensive work at the net. From there, it was close all the way and there wasn’t more than a point in it from 16-15 (Iran) to 22-22. Chen Ping then came up with two crunching hits to give China two setpoints. Iran saved one with a massive thump by Amir Ghafour, but Zhang Chen did enough to push a spike through the Iran defence and earn China the first set.

China coach Zhou Jianan took his players off court after just three points of the second set – none of which they had won – as a confident Iran cruised into a five-point lead at the first TTO. Zhong Weijun added a couple of huge kills to keep China in the set, but Iran maintained a narrow lead through the second TTO with captain Nadi Alireza and Zarini leading their team. But China kept the pressure on. Bian Hongmin came up with a strong spike and a huge block on Mohammed Mousavi and Iran coach Julio Velasco called a timeout when China closed to within a point at 18-17. Zarini gave Iran some breathing space with two good hits, the second of which opened up a four-point gap at 21-17. A netted serve by Li Runming brought up setpoint at 24-20 and Reza Ghara brought the set scores level with an unchallenged kill.

The match stayed close in the 33-minute third set, with no more than two points in it in the opening phase. A massive blow by Ghara put Iran 15-12 ahead, but two super blocks – by Zhong on Ghara and Li on Farhad Ghaemi – brought the scores level at 15-15. Zarini helped his team into a two-point lead at 18-16 with two more big kills, but China were fighting hard and the scores were level again at 21-21, 22-22 and 23-23. Zarini delivered a massive blow down the middle to bring up setpoint, but Yuan Shi responded with a slick spike. Mousavi planted a big hit down the middle; Yuan responded with another cracking kill. Then China had the advantage. They failed on four straight setpoints before Zhang found space down the middle with a thumping drive that gave China a 2-1 advantage.

Excellent work by Ghaemi gave Iran the early edge in the fourth set and they were three points ahead at the first TTO. A thunderous spell of serving by Amir Ghafour then helped put Iran in the driving seat as they moved from 10-8 to 15-8. A less spectacular serve by Mousavi that hit the net cord and trickled over brought up setpoint at 24-13 and Zarini brought the teams level at 2-2 with a spike.

There was nothing between the two teams in the opening phase of the deciding set. The first team to open up a two-point gap was Iran at 9-7 on a spike down the right line by Ghafour. Ghaemi followed that up with a brutal serve that China couldn’t return. China clawed two points back before Mir Saeid Marouflakrani set up another Iran point with a fantastic dig. At 13-10, Ping Chen thumped a huge hit through the Iran defence and Ghafour then shot wide to put China within a point at 13-12. Velasco called a timeout and Zarini brought up matchpoint with a classy kill. An Iran block went wide, giving China hope, but Ghaemi finished things off with a drive through the China block.

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