The home team shut out Iran in their VNL 2023 opener
Captain Yuki Ishikawa showed his charisma on the court in Nagoya as he led Japan to a 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-19) victory over Asian rivals Iran in front of a packed house of fantastic fans as the men’s Volleyball Nations League 2023 Pool 2 action got underway on Tuesday.
The outside hitter produced the match high of 20 points. He put away an ace and a kill block, while spiking at a 60% success rate. Ishikawa’s cross-court teammate Ran Takahashi added another 10 points, including the match winner, while libero Tomohiro Yamamoto was brilliant in defence, piling up 11 digs.
Opposite Amin Esmaeilnezhad was Iran’s leading scorer on 11 points, also including an ace and a block. Experienced Iranian middle and captain Seyed Mousavi impressed with four blocking points during the match.
Inspired by the noise from the stands, Japan stormed the match on a 3-0 run and, with Ishikawa on fire in attack, they cruised on to open a gap as wide as 11 points during a completely one-sided first set. Finally, opposite Kento Miyaura closed the set at 25-16 with a sharp cross-court hit. The second set was way more competitive, with the lead swinging from four points Iran’s way to five points Japan’s way, and ended at 25-22 on a powerful pipe by Ishikawa for the last point. Iran stayed competitive through 8-8 in set three, but then the home team started building up a margin, which amounted to six points at the end of the match, brought about by Ran Takahashi with a blistering shot for 25-19.
“From the beginning we played very well as a team, well supported by our fans. Defence is one of our weapons and we could show it to the fans tonight. I am just happy we can perform in front of such a crowd,” said Ishikawa after the game.
In their next matches in Nagoya, Japan will take on Serbia on Friday at 19:40 local time (10:40 UTC), and Iran will challenge Poland on Thursday at 18:00 (09:00).
Earlier on Tuesday, Bulgaria and China got the men’s VNL underway with a spectacular five-setter. The Asians kept more persistent on the way to a 3-2 (25-20, 21-25, 25-21, 20-25, 15-19) victory, outplaying their European opponents on all scoring counts. China’s outside Zhang Jingyin was the best scorer of the match with 29 points to his name, including six kill blocks and two aces. Also reaching the double digits on the winners’ side were outside Yu Yuantai with 15 points and captain Jiang Chuan with 10. Bulgarian rising star Aleksandar Nikolov produced 22 points, supported by opposite Dimitar Dimitrov with 15 and outside Martin Atanasov with 13.
Tuesday’s VNL action continues in Ottawa with two matches of the Pool 1 programme. Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallists Argentina will challenge reigning world champions at 16:30 local time (20:30 UTC). Then Cuba will make their VNL debut against hosts Canada at 20:00 (00:00).
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