Tehran, Iran, September 20, 2019 – Hosts Iran smashed Korea’s sweet dreams of advancing to the final first time in six years after edging past the unbeaten rivals in hard-fought four-set thriller 22-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-22 to secure a final berth in the Saturday’s showdown against the winners between Australia and Japan at the SMM 20th Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship at the 12,000-seater Azadi Sports Complex on Friday.
Iran handed Korea, bronze medallists at the 2017 edition in Indonesia, the first loss in this top-flight championship, forcing the Koreans to crash out of the title race.
Amir Ghafour chipped in with 20 points for Iran including 19 attacks from 37 attempts. June Jiseok led Korea with 15 points including 13 attacks from 33 attempts.
Korea, spearheaded by powerful Jung Jiseok, Korea made a solid start and caught fire shortly after that. With Heo Subong and Shin Yungsuk Shin attacking spectacularly at the wing, Korea clinched the first set 25-22.
Holding one set disadvantage, Iran came back much stronger at the beginning of the second set. Amir Ghafour and Milad Ebadipour were devastating form as they joined forces in penetrating the Korea’s defence with their powerful attacks to help Iran take a 14-10 lead, widen the gap to 20-15 to clinch the hard-fought set 25-23.
With Koreans riddled with several unforced attacking mistakes in the third set, Iran grabbed the chance to counter-attack and block effectively to advance 22-20 and went on to win the set 25-22.
Both teams shone through their exceptional form in the fourth set. Though putting up an aggressive fightback, Korea found the rivals uncatchable from the very beginning, and the substitutions could not turn the tide for Korea. Iran went on to win the set 25-22, match and a final berth.
“It was a dramatic match. It was tough and we did not play very well. Bearing positive energy was the reason of our victory today,” Montenegrin Igor Kolakovic, head coach of Iran, commented after the match.
Iran’s captain, Saeid Marouf said, “It was the semi-final match that is as tough as the final round. Both teams have equal chance of winning. The matches at this level is critical no matter which team you are facing. Experience helped us overcome Korea.”
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