Asian Volleyball: India face Japan for bronze medal play-off

September 7th, 2012 - 2:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Hanoi, Sep 7 (IANS) India will face Asian Games champion Japan in the bronze medal play-off match after they lost to defending champion Iran in a keenly contested semi-final of the men’s Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Cup here Thursday.

Reigning two-time champions Iran beat India 25-23, 25-13, 25-23 to set-up a final clash with China, who beat Japan 25-20, 25-22, 25-22. India and Japan will play for the bronze medal match Friday ahead of the final clash.

For the second straight time it will be a Iran-China final. Iran had won the title at home in 2010.

Iran had some stuttering moments in the semi-final, with gritty India leading once at 23-21 in the opening set and giving Iran a real scare by levelling the scores many times in the third. However, Iran capitalised on their experience to shrug off their opponent’s comeback.

Iran still relied on their similar strong line-up including Mahammadreza Soleymani, Alireza Jadidi and Ali Sajjadi, while India fielded well-established players led by Gurinder Singh and S. Prabagaran.

Iran got off to a great start in the first set to lead all the ways, but India improved their teamwork and utilised effective blocking from Prabagaran and R. Vaishnav to catch them at 21-21 and again 23-23.

Iranians Peyman Karimi and Alireaz Mobasheri read the game well to effectively block Gurinder for the Iran’s crucial 24-23 lead. Soleymani attacked the Indian blocking with his devastating spike at the post to end the rivals’ challenge in the first set 25-23.

The second set turned a lop-sided battle when Iran played an impeccable defence, allowing the Indians tough times scoring. Taking a commanding 15-7 lead, Iran stormed on their mighty attacks to win the comfortable set 25-13.

India issued a strong threat in the third set, making the on-going battle more exciting. They played every part of the game well, foiling the Iran’s determined scoring attempts and the tough get going. Though Iran maintained their poise to produce the goods, they could not lead the rivals with more than a one-point margin throughout the set.

At the end of the hotly-contested battle, where Iran and India were locked in a tight contest to tie 23-23, the Iranians proved class above their opponents to win two straight points, the set 25-23 and the encounter.

Soleymani scored the highest 13 points for Iran, while Gurinder remained the India’s top scorer with 10 points in this match.

The win allowed the mighty Iran stay in the hunt for a hat-trick of AVC Cup. They were crowned the eventual champions in 2008 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand after beating South Korea in the final. They repeated the feat in 2010 after brushing off China in the showdown in front of their home crowd in Urmia.

In the other semi-final, China opened the match with good pace, leading Japan 8-2 at the first technical time-out and 16-13 by the second time-out, then wrapped up the first set with 25-20.

Entering the second set, China seemed to lose their focus and let Japan level the scores at 10-10 and 19-19. However, Chinese player Zhong Weijun stood up to bring China set point and sealed the second set at 25-22.

China continued to outclass Japan when getting the first four points of the third set, leading Japan 8-5 at the first time-out. Japan had the momentum on their side by overtaking the lead at 16-15 but it’s the Chinese team who took away the set at 25-22 and the ticket to final as well.

Also Friday, Vietnam will play South Korea for the fifth place while Myanmar will fight against Australia for the seventh place.

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