NISHIDA SHINES AS JAPAN CLAIM ASIAN DERBY
Rouen, France, May 27, 2018 – Japan claimed the Asian derby against Iran 3-1 (25-22, 30-28, 23-25, 25-23) thanks a commanding performance by Yuji Nishida in Sunday’s men’s 2018 Nations League clash.
Nishida was on top form as he guided his team with 21 points, 2 aces and one block on his own.
To edge out a solid Iranian side, Japan relied on a team performance as Masahiro Yanagida (17 points, including 3 aces), Tatsuya Fukuzawa (11 points), Akihiro Yamauchi (12 points) and Haku Ri (15 points) all managed double digits.
Amir Ghafour, who was Iran’s top scorer on 18 points against France on Friday, only managed to score six points against Australia. The opposite spike was on top form for this Asian derby, claiming 22 points (including 4 blocks), almost double the total of Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi (12).
Both teams stood at 1-1 after the opening two days of the competition: a win over Australia and a defeat against France. In this rematch of both the 2014 Asian Games final and the 2015 Asian Championship final, Iran, however, were the favourites, having won five of their last six encounters at world level major competitions with their Asian counterparts.
Iran served first but it was Japan who claimed the first points, racing to an early 6-1 lead. With the wind in their sails, the Japanese strangely broke down and allowed Iran to claw back into the game with four straight unforced errors (12-10). And Iran proved once again they were no pushovers, pouncing on every single mistake as the lethal Ali Shafiei finally found the target (16-16). A last minute rally lifted Japan in the lead that the Ryujin Nippon never let go of as Haku Ri spiked (25-22).
Japan started strong in the second set off the back of the Masahiro Yanagida-Haku Ri duo (9-6). And once the Japanese block sprung into action to preven Iran from clawing back into the game (15-14), there was nothing to prevent 1972 Olympic champs to claim the second set. Especially as Masahiro Yanagida claimed a couple aces and Lee spiked (30-28) in a tense end of the set that saw both teams fight tooth and nails.
It was more of the same in third with Japan gaining an early control and Iran clawing back (5-5). A great kill block performance from Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi helped coach Kolakovic’s men leapfrog in front Japan (18-16) but not for long as they seemed rattled enough to let their Asian counterparts jumped out to a 19-18 lead. Another successful blocking streak offered Iran the third set on a silver platter (25-23).
Iran had the momentum and raced in front as Amir Ghafour as instrumental once gain but Nishida, back to doing what he does well, leveled with a powerful spike at 8-8. Japan dug in their heels and, despite a strong performance from the Iranian block, claimed the fourth and final set to level (25-23).
Japan now head to Goaiana (Brazil) for week 2 while Iran are going to San Juan (Argentina), hoping to do better.
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