Indomitable Iran pulled off a dramatic 3-1 victory over Australia
Indomitable Iran pulled off a dramatic 3-1 (25-21 23-25 25-17 25-18) victory over Australia to snatch their first win at the “SMM” 5th AVC Cup for Men at the Nakhon Pathom Gymnasium on Thursday.
Iran, which emerged as the only men’s team from Asia to contest the last month’s Rio Games to finish joint fifth at their debut Olympics, are sending their second string team in the 5th edition and none of them competed in Rio de Janeiro. Still, they fielded a strong line-up led by hard-attacking Reza Ghara and Masoud Gholami, while Australia are also represented by young bloods with age average is 20.3 years.
Both teams got the first set off to a closely-contested battle to trade points from the beginning. However, Iran’s solid blocks worked out pretty well which allowed the Aussies scoring difficulties. Iran took an initial 11-8 lead and stretched it to 20-14. Australian’s head coach Italian Roberto Santilli called a timeout to improve his team’s tactics and his attempts paid off impressively as Australia saved three straight set points. Nonetheless, their good show came a bit late as Ghara produced a powerful hit to help Iran win the first set 25-21.
Conceding one set, Australia regrouped and bounced back bravely to lead 3-1 in the second set and widened the gap to 12-9, thanks to thundering hits by strongly-built Jordan Richards and the 205cm-tall Mitchell Tulley. Their leading role did not last long as Iran gradually clawed their way back to catch up with the Aussies 22-22 before moving ahead 23-22. Richards brought Australia back on track, penetrating the Iranian defence with his sharp spikes. The Aussies met Iran at 23-23 and went on to win two consecutive points to snatch the thrilling set 25-23.
Iran gained the upper hand in the fourth set to take an early lead 15-9. Australia pulled their game together, with Thomas Hodges and Tulley taking turns in tearing the Iranian defence with their aggressive attacks. Ghara scored two successive points to help Iran close out the set 25-17.
Holding 2-1 advantage, Iran remained in aggressive form in the third set to lead commandingly 22-13, but Australia counter-attacked well to score three straight points to reduce the gap 16-22. Still, Iran continued their good run to win the set 25-18.
Reza Ghara scored a team-high 21 points including 19 kills from 32 attempts, while Mitchell Tulley led Australia with 20 points including 16 kills. Thomas Hodges added with 10 points from attack hits.
“In this tournament, the first match is very difficult. Australia come up with a young team with new players. They are a strong team with good future as they played with challenge against us. However, we played well with better performance than them. We tired to use all of our players for them to get more familiar with the venue conditions because we learn that after this there will be not too many matches for them. We are second national team of Iran and there is no one playing at the Rio Games. We next take on Japan. Most of the Japanese are new players. We have no enough information about them. So, we have to sit here, watch them play Korea and study their tactics,” Iran’s head coach Shahnazi Naser commented after the match.