IRAQ TO TEST CHAMPIONSHIP METTLE AGAINST SAUDI ARABIA AT AVC MEN’S CHALLENGE CUP
Colombo, Sri Lanka, September 20, 2018 – Iraq stole the limelight on Thursday as they recovered from the first-set down to stun hosts Sri Lanka in exciting 3-1 (22-25 26-24 25-20 25-20) comeback win to go up against Saudi Arabia in the Friday’s final showdown of the 1st AVC Men’s Challenge Cup at Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium here.
Hussain Nameer Shamil and Safaa Lafta Majeed led the Iraq’s challenge in a crucial semi-final match against the host side, coached by Serbian Dejan Vulicevic and spearheaded by Deepthi Hehathipurage.
Sri Lanka, which finished a distant 13th position at the recent Asian Games in Indonesia, made a strong start in the hard-fought opening set, which they narrowly won 25-22. Iraq, which did not send their team to the Asian Games, counter-attacked well in the following sets to win 26-24 25-20 25-20 for the match.
Hussain Nameer Shamil chipped in with 22 points for Iraq including 16 kills from 29 attempts and a team-leading 4 blocks, while Deepthi Hehathipurage led the losing hosts with 20 points from 17 attacks, 2 blocks and 1 ace.
The win has carried Iraq to the final showdown of the inaugural competition, where they will play Saudi Arabia. Sri Lanka will challenge Malaysia, the team they had already beaten in straight sets in the preliminary round earlier, in a third-place playoff encounter.
Saudi Arabia, 10th at the Asian Games in Indonesia and the best team in the tournament with world-ranked No. 50, had a little problems in brushing off Bangladesh in four-setter 25-15 21-25 25-12 26-24 in the Thursday’s semi-finals.
Omar Alnajrani scored a match-high 18 points for Saudi Arabia including 14 attacks, while Ahmed Albakheet kept good company after adding 16 points including 11 kills and 2 blocks. Biswas Horosit led Bangladesh with 10 points.
In the 5th-8th classification round earlier, Hong Kong China, powered by hard-attacking So Chun Hin, were forced to work overtime to beat Mongolia in exhausting five sets 25-21 20-25 24-26 25-17 15-10 in 119 minutes. So Chun Hin led Hong Kong China with 20 points including 15 kills from 28 attempts, but Man Chun Hin scored the highest point through attacking as he added 18 points, 17 of which were powerful spikes. Erdenebat led Mongolia with 18 points.
With the hard-fought win, Hong Kong China are due to next take on the United Arab Emirates in the 5th-6th place playoff on Friday. The UAE survived a sturdy challenge from Malaysia to down the Asean counterparts in the closely-contested battle 21-25 25-23 36-34 25-21.
Ace spiker Ghulam Amer scored a team-high 29 points for the UAE from 24 attacks, 3 blocks and 2 aces, while Suntan Mubarak added 18 points including a team-leading 6 blocks. Jian Qin Sim also had something to be proud of as he scored the match-high 30 points for Hong Kong China including 26 attacks from 57 attempts.
Mongolia will take on Malaysia in the 7th-8th place playoff.
Hong Kong China b Mongolia 3-2 (25-21 20-25 24-26 25-17 15-10)
UAE b Malaysia 3-1 (21-25 25-23 36-35 25-21)
Iraq b Sri Lanka 3-1 (22-25 26-24 25-20 25-20)
Saudi Arabia b Bangladesh 3-1 (25-15 21-25 25-12 26-24)
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2019
7th-8th: Mongolia v Malaysia
5th-6th: Hong Kong China v the UAE
Bronze-medal match: Sri Lanka v Bangladesh
Championship match: Iraq v Saudi Arabia
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