Taipei, Chinese Taipei, April 21, 2019 – Japan’s Panasonic Panthers survived a sturdy challenge from Sri Lanka Ports Authority Sports Club to demolish the fighting rivals in hard-fought three-setter 25-21 25-23 25-21 in their 1-8 playoff match encounter of the 2019 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship at the University of Taipei (Tianmu) Gymnasium on Sunday.

Tatsuya Fukuzawa scored a team-high 16 points from 13 attacks and 3 solid blocks for Panasonic Panthers, while Kenji Shirasawa contributed 12 points including 5 blocks and 2 aces. Janitha Surath led Sri Lanka Ports Authority Sports Club with 17 points.

Sri Lanka Ports Authority Sports Club, powered by star spiker Janitha Surath, who played professionally in the Thailand League in the recently-concluded season, pushed Panasonic Panthers to the limit with their aggression and consistency. Trailing narrowly 4-5, the Sri Lankans gradually pulled their game together. Janitha, who led the team with 17 points in their pool round-robin preliminary match against Iran’s Varamin Municipality, produced terrific jump serves and powerful attacks to help the Sri Lankans reduce the margin to 16-14 at the second technical timeout.

However, Panasonic Panthers seemingly fielded players with individual talents and they appeared to do the trick. Deadly left-hander Kunihiro Shimizu and Tatsuya Fukuzawa uncorked a series of powerful hits which always went unanswered. Despite a gallant play from the rivals, the Japanese continued their fine form to seal the first set 25-21, with Tsubasa Hisahara smartly landing a fast mid-court drop to win the team’s last point.

The second set turned out to be a one-way traffic from the very beginning as Panasonic Panthers were working well as a well-oiled machine, with Fukuzawa coming up with lightning-fast attacks to help Panasonic Panthers stretch it to 21-16. Janitha and Sameera Disanayaka nailed some crucial points for the Sri Lankans and the indomitable Japanese stayed two-points clear at 23-21 as they made a few mistakes, but remained in confident form to win the second set 25-23.

Conceding two straight sets, the Sri Lankans gave it all-out in the third set. Janitha and Malith Dinidu were blocking everything at the net, while Juanita’s great serves and spikes were amazingly unreturnable for the team’s 4-1 lead. The Japanese tightened their defence and simultaneously counter-attacked well to catch the rivals at 8-8 and again 18-18. The Sri Lankans tried hard to put things back on track, but their efforts were in vain. Panasonic Panthers won the set 25-21 and match.

After the match, Panasonic Panthers’ head coach Shinji Kawamura said that he was satisfied with the victory, citing that the team still had something to correct ahead of the next tough match against Iran’s Varamin Municipality.

“It’s good to win again although the match against the Sri Lankan team was very close. I think we played difficultly in the first two sets because we did some mistakes and when you have to play a strong team from Iran the following day, you have to clear those mistakes. However, I believe our next match against Varamin Municipality will be a good match. We will do our best.”


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