Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, April 4, 2017 – Fired-up Korea, powered by ace spiker Im Donghyeok, repeatedly stunned defending and seven-time champions Iran in hard-fought five-set thriller 25-19 25-22 23-16-25 9-15 in the thrilling semi-final match to go up against Japan in the final showdown of the SMM 11th Asian Boys’ U19 Volleyball Championship at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium Hall B on Tuesday.
Korea, which have already beaten the Iranians in straight sets in their Pool B preliminary round, played a tough first set against the title-holders, led by hard-attacking Morteza Sharifi. At 16-16, Korea won a crucial point, but Iran’s head coach Mohammad Vakili attempted to protest against the referee’s decision and was shown a red card. From then, Korea went on their mighty attacks to win the set 25-19.
In the second set, Korea still gained the upper hand to take an initial 15-11 lead and stretched it to 24-17, needing only one more point to take the set. However, Iran were just never-say-die to counter-attack well and save five set points before Korea won it 25-22.
Iran gave it all-out to race to a 5-0 lead in the third set and widen the margin 7-4. Korea maintained their poise and fought back mightily to catch the Iranians at 14-14 and again 20-20. Iran bagged the set 25-23 and went on their sparkling form to win the fourth set 25-16. Korea were back on the right track to win the decider 15-9, match and a final berth.
Im Donghyeok scored a match-high 41 points including 39 kills from 73 attempts, while Morteza Sharifi topscored with 30 points for Iran including 23 kills, 4 stuff blocks and 3 ace serves. Ali Tabari contributed 18 attack hits.
After the match, Korea’s team manager Park Wongil said, “It was a tough match. For the first and second sets, our team did very well. But at the end of the second set, our team members and Chinese players made some troubles together. I think it was ill manner of China to do that to us (shouting to Korea and showing middle fingers when Korea shouted back at the end of the second set) and we have already informed the Technical Delegate to justify this case. Our team felt upset and seemed like they could not do what they had to do in the third and fourth sets. In the third set, Iran led 5-0 and I think it was because our team members were mentally broken. In the fifth set, we led all the ways and we eventually won it. We next take on Japan. We have yet played the Japanese, but they beat China in straight sets. It must be a tough match out there against Japan. We will do our best.”
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