Manama, Bahrain, May 20, 2023 – Suntory Sunbirds of Japan smashed Shahdab Yazd’ sweet dreams of advancing to their unprecedented final after edging past the Iranians in hard-fought four-set thriller to secure a final berth in the Sunday’s showdown of the 2023 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship at Isa Bin Rashid Hall 1.
The dramatic 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 34-32, 25-17) win was the similar feat Suntory Sunbirds had repeated in their back-to-back wins against Shahdab Yazd. At the previous edition last year in Tehran, Suntory Sunbirds outplayed the Iranian outfits 3-1 in the semifinals. The Japanese side did it again 3-1 in the semifinals here in Bahrain.
The win also earned Suntory Sunbirds a spot in the final of the eight-day championship. The unbeaten Japanese will battle it out for the eventual title with the winners of the other semifinal match between Qatar’s Police Sports Team and Indonesia’s Jakarta Bhayangkara Presisi.
Since the tournament inception in 1999 in China, no club team from Japan have captured gold medal in the Asian Men’s Club Championship, but they came within a whisker of claiming gold for four times, only losing them all in final showdowns. This will be the third time for Suntory Sunbirds to make it to the final. They had already entered the final in 2001 and 2022, but lost in both occasions.
It was the second loss in this topflight championship for Shahdab Yazd, bronze medalists at the previous edition in Iran. Earlier in the quarterfinal match Pool F the previous day, Shahdab Yazd suffered their first setback following their nail-biting 2-3 loss to Qatar’s Police and on Saturday, they went down 1-3 to Suntory Sunbirds.
In the Saturday’s match, Mohammad Valizadeh chipped in with 20 points for Shahdab Yazd including 16 attacks from 19 attempts. Russian Dmitriy Muserskiy led Suntory Sunbirds with 29 points including 26 attacks from 46 attempts.
Suntory Sunbirds, spearheaded by powerful and towering Muserskiy, made a solid start and caught fire shortly after that. With Kenji Sato and Alain De Armas Berrios attacking spectacularly at the wing, the Japanese team clinched the first set 25-22.
Conceding one set, Shahdab Yazd came back much stronger at the beginning of the second set. Amir Ghafour and Masoud Gholami were devastatingas they joined forces in penetrating the Japanese defence with their powerful attacks to help the Iranians clinch the hard-fought set 25-23.
With the Iranians riddled with several unforced attacking mistakes in the third and fourth sets, Suntory Sunbirds grabbed the chance to counter-attack and block effectively to win the next two sets 34-32, 25-17, match and a final berth.
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