Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, May 26, 2017 – Pakistan overcame a strong challenge from Kyrgyzstan to edge past the host side in a hard-fought five-set thriller at the Central Asian Zonal Qualification Tournament for the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship on Friday.
The dramatic 25-18 25-18 15-25 22-25 16-14 win handed Pakistan two points, with one point awarded to the host team. To increase their chances of winning the tournament and the lone ticket from this zone to contest the Final Round Qualifications in Iran in coming August, Pakistan next play a must-win match against Kazakhstan on Saturday.
Ahead of the tense competition, the opening ceremony was held at the 1,000-seater Gazprom Gym, packed to its full seating capacity by home audiences. Three participating teams, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan paraded into the gym. Mr Elmurza Satybaldiev, President of Volleyball Federation of Kyrgyzstan, presided over the opening ceremony, with Mr Almaznek Kasenov, Director of Directorate on Olympic Sports of Kyrgyzstan, and AVC Secretary-General Mr Shanrit Wongprasert, in attendance as guests of honour.
Against Kyrgyzstan and their cheering home crowds, Pakistan got off to a brilliant start to take an initial 8-4 lead in the opening set before stretching it to 16-9, thanks to their powerful attacks, solid blocks and impressive reception. Despite a good fightback, Kyrgyzstan found the visitors too strong to go down 18-25 in the first set.
In the second set, Kanybek Uulu Onolbek and Idirisov Emil formed the strong frontline for Kyrgyzstan, but their attacking attempts were in vain due to the rivals’ impeccable defence.
Jehan Murad and Khan Aimal took turns penetrating the Kyrgyzstan defence with their powerful attacks to help Pakistan take the second set with the similar margin 25-18.
Backed by cheering home fans on site, Kyrgyzstan started to produce the goods in the third set. Kanybek Uulu Onolbek became a smashing machine for the host side, unleashing several sharp attacks to put Kyrgyzstan in front 16-10. The hosts continued their dazzling performance to win the set 25-15
The fourth set was still dominated by Kyrgyzstan. As Kanybek Uulu Onolbek became a major force to be reckoned with for Kyrgyzstan and Jehan Murad did likewise for Pakistan, the spectators were entertained in the action-packed set, with both sides exchanging points from attack hits and blocks. However, Kyrgyzstan fared better to win the closely-contested set 25-22.
Both teams were locked in a tight contest in the tie-break. Pakistan led narrowly 10-9, widened it to 14-13 and held on to win the thrilling decider 16-14 and match.
For the hard-fought win, Pakistan claimed two points, leaving Kyrgyzstan to take the remaining one. Pakistan badly need a win in the Saturday’s match against Kazakhstan to make sure the lone berth for the World Championship Final Round Qualifications is within their reach.
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