Surabaya, Indonesia, July 31, 2017 – Former successive two-time winners Iran shrugged off their sluggish start against Australia to capture a magnificent come-from-behind 3-2 (17-25 18-25 25-21 25-19 16-14) victory at the 5th-8th playoff match in the SMM 19th Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship at the Tri Dharma Petrokimia Gymnasium on Monday.
Exhausted by the marathon 122-minute, five-set battle against Indonesia which allowed the host side their debut appearance in the top -four places in 42 years since the inaugural tournament in Melbourne, Australia in 1975, Iran made a poor start to go down in the first two sets 17-25 18-25. Iran rested their best player Amin Esmaeilnejad and replaced him with Rasoul Aghchehli, who brought the team back on the right track.
Iran put their acts together, with Rasoul Aghchehli hitting like lightning and Sahand Allahverdian and Salim Cheperli setting up an impeccable defence for the 25-21 25-19 win in the third and fourth sets. In the tie-breaker, Australia fought it all-out, while the Iranians held their nerves and counter-attacked well to win the close battle 16-14 and match.
Rasoul Aghchehli scored a match-high 21 points including 19 kills from 40 attempts, while Salim Cheperli added 14 points from 12 kills and 2 blocks. Luke Smith topscored with 18 points from 14 attack hits and 4 blocks for Australia and Beau Graham handed the team 5 kill blocks.
With the exceptional comeback win, Iran will next go up against China, the team they lost in straight sets in the top-eight playoff match earlier, for the 5th position in this Asian meet.
“We lost the first two sets because Australia played better than us, especially their attacks. However, we started to control the game in the third set and we also changed some players. We finally found solution to cope with the Australian tactics. Most of my players look a bit tired from playing five sets with Indonesia on Sunday night, but everyone still wanted to play this important match. We next play China, the team we lost in straight sets earlier in this championship. They are strong, but we are willing to learn from them. I hope we will have a good match on Tuesday,” said Iran’s Argentine head coach Juan Manuel Cichello after the match.
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