By Maryam Hessaby

Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, October 11, 2021 – Mighty Sirjan Foulad Iranian continued their unbeaten streak following their 3-1 rout of Al-Arabi Sports Club, as Diamond Food captured a fantastic victory in an exhausting 163-minute real clash of titans against Rebisco Philippines on the penultimate day of the pool round-robin preliminaries in the 2021 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship at Terminal 21 Hall on Monday.

The Iran’s Premier League champions Sirjan Foulad Iranian faced off against high-profile Al-Arabi Sports Club, which had captured several titles including the 2012 Asian Club Championship to their name, in what could be a highly-anticipated match to determine the Pool B winners, routing the formidable outfit from Qatar in dramatic four-setter 25-23, 22-25, 25-16, 25-18 to become the only unbeaten team in this topflight Championship.

With only one match remaining for each participating team, Sirjan Foulad Iranian had 9 points from three straight wins to surge ahead Al-Arabi to the top spot in Pool B, with the Qatari counterparts trailing in second place with 6 points from two wins against one loss.  Sirjan Foulad Iranian are due to take on Thailand’s Diamond Food in their last Pool B match on Tuesday, while Al-Arabi will play AGMK of Uzbekistan.

“Sirjan Foulad Iranian played very well. Congratulations to them. It was a tough match for us. We have a couple of things that we need to fix. I hope we can meet them again in the final, that for sure, you will see a different game from us than what you have seen today,” said Serbian Konstantin Cupkovic, one of Al-Arabi Sports Club’s key players.

Saeid Rezaei, head coach of Sirjan Foulad Iranian, said, “We had a good analysis of this team and we could beat them as expected. Al-Arabi are our main opponents and we will probably have a rematch in the final round. We have to fix our receptions for the next matches. I praised my players on good serves and blocks.”

In the other Pool B encounter, Diamond Food and South East Asian counterparts Rebisco Philippines set up one of the most closely-contested encounters in the 2021 edition as both sides locked horns in a very tight, high-octane contest. As the former were on red-hot form with spectacular attacks, the latter were just defending brilliantly at the net, blocking almost everything the rivals could throw at them.

In the exhausting clash, both sides played with great consistency, courage and determination, but Diamond Food fared a bit better to win an epic tie-breaker in the see-saw battle 36-34, 24-26, 26-28, 19-25, 15-12.

Diamond Food improved their performance with 4 points from 2 wins against one loss to stay in the third place in Pool B, while Rebisco Philippines suffered four losses in a row to be assured of a fifth-place finish in the Pool.

On Wednesday, the Philippine team will next battle it out with CEB Sports Club from Sri Lanka, which have yet won a single set from three matches contested in Pool A. Although the Sri Lankans still have one remaining match on Tuesday against Nakhon Ratchasima QminC VC, they look set to end their preliminary Pool A campaign in fifth place.

“Everyone definitely performed well. We have been through a lot since 2019. We would have wanted our program to continue nonstop but the pandemic spoiled all our plans. But with the results that we have seen since the first game, I am really content because the players did everything they can. This is our first time stepping into a tournament of this scale. I am really delighted with our team’s performance even when we did not win. We truly have learned a lot,” Rebisco head coach Dante P. Alinsunurin said.

Rebisco’s Joshua Umandal, who topscored with 26 points for the team, said, “This serves as a huge lesson for us all. We came here to compete and to learn, and exit the tournament with nothing but all the lessons we can gain. This is the time for us to know our games better inside the court, and we will use this experience to further determine how we can improve ourselves.”

“We know we could have won; it is just we had some lapses at the end game. In the fourth set, our intensity went down because we were so excited after taking a 2-1 lead. But when the fifth set came, we started fresh and forgot about everything that happened in the first and fourth sets. I still believe we did our best to perform and try to win,” he added.

In the other breathtaking match of the day, Egyptian Ahmed Said led Iraq’s South Gas Club with a match-high 28 points proving the difference in his side’s epic 3-2 (22-25, 25-15, 21-25, 25-15, 15-13) victory over Kuwait’s Kazma Sport Club in their Arab volleyball duel in Pool A.

Kazma Sport Club head coach Fabiano Preturlon said, “When the players cannot play very steadily and can be so good in one set and so erratic in the next one, it means they need more practice. Today they were not so consistent. Tomorrow’s match against Burevestnik Almaty from Kazakhstan is very tough and we have to recover some weak points to be able to come along well. I try to prepare their mentality to be able to challenge the rivals up to the last moment.”

Alaa Khalaf Abdulsattar, South Gas Club head coach, said: “We could win this match 3-1 but the referee made a mistake and he was key to our first-set loss. I asked for the video-challenge but he stopped me and was believing he saw the ball. We could earn three points in the match but now we have to wait and see the match result of Kazma Sport Club and Burevestnik Almaty tomorrow.”

In another Pool A clash earlier, Burevestnik Almaty had a little problem in demolishing CEB Sports Club in straight sets 25-20, 25-12, 25-20. Mikhail Ustinov topscored with 18 points including 14 attacks for the Kazakh side, while Hirushan Batepola led the Sri Lankans with 14 points.

“No match is easy for us. The Sri Lankan team are also strong, but I think my players have more motivation to show their fighting attitude to join the semifinalists,” Burevestnik Almaty head coach Alexandr Zapevalov commented.

CEB Sports Club head coach Ranasingha Arachchilage Chamindra Umara Jayarathna said, “We were so unlucky that we lost our six main starters at the last moment before coming to Thailand. They were detected positive and I have to bring our bench players. Most of them cannot play very well in spite of the fact that six of the current roster is from the national team. They are inexperienced and need more time and practice.” 

Burevestnik Almaty are due to go up against Kazma Sport Club in their last Pool A match on Tuesday, while CEB Sports Club will seek their first win in this top-tier tournament as they will challenge hosts Nakhon Ratchasima.




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