Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, October 7, 2016 – In-form Thailand delighted home fans with their scintillating straight-set 27-25 25-17 25-22 victory over Myanmar in their opening encounter of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship Southeast Asian Zonal Qualification Tournament at the Nakhon Pathom Municipality Gymnasium in Nakhon Pathom on Friday.
World No.42 Thailand, which have captured the South East Asian (SEA) Games title for three times in a row (2011, 2013, 2015), fielded a well-established line-up with the likes of ace spiker Jirayu Raksakaew, Kittikun Sri-utthawong, Kissada Nilsawai and Kitsada Somkane.
Myanmar, joint 77th in the world ranking and bronze medallists at the previous SEA Games last year in Singapore, sent in a young, potential roster which finished well-earned fifth place at the Asian Men’s U23 Championship last year at home in Nay Pyi Taw. Talented Aung Thu, who played professionally in the Thailand League for several seasons, was the backbone of the team.
Thailand, which finished seventh at the last week’s “SMM” 5th AVC Cup for Men following their surprise straight-set win over defending champions Korea in the 7th-8th playoff, and Myanmar started with almost the similar level in the opening set.
Levelling 17-17, Thailand stretched it to 23-22, thanks to powerful mid-court attacks from Kittikun and Kissada’s solid blocks. However, the Thai delight did not last long when the visitors hit back gallantly with attacks and effective blocks to catch up with the Thais at 23-23 and advanced 24-23, needing only one more point to take the hard-fought set. Thailand’s head coach Monchai Supajirakul called a time-out to improve his team’s fortunes. His intention worked out pretty well when Thailand recovered fast to win the closely-contested set 27-25.
Holding a 1-0 advantage, the host side played more confidently in the second set. Thailand seized the opportunity when the visitors’ nerves began to fray to continue their spectacular attacks for a commanding 16-12 lead. Myanmar put their acts together, but still failed to make their mark. Thailand took the comfortable set 25-17.
Going down two sets, Myanmar regained their composure and bounced back aggressively in the third set, with Aung Thu and Myo Min Oo producing cross-court spikes and the 192cm-tall Thwin Htoo Zin blocking solidly to help the visitors take a narrow 14-13 lead. With home fans cheering them all the way, Thailand clawed their way back to win the thrilling set 25-22 and match.
Kissada Nilsawai led Thailand with 15 points including 9 kills and 6 kill blocks. Jirayu Raksakaew and Kittikun Sri-utthawong added with 11 kills apiece, while Myo Min Oo top scored with 12 points for Myanmar including 10 kills from 21 attempts. Aung Thu assisted with 10 kills, while Thwin Htoo Zin had 4 stuff blocks.
Thailand will next have a rest day, while Myanmar will go up against Vietnam on Saturday.
Thailand b Myanmar 3-0 (27-25 25-17 25-22)
Saturday, October 8, 2016
6pm: Myanmar v Vietnam