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Korea, stunning title-holders Iran, and China remain the only two unbeaten teams in 18th Asian Senior Men’s Championship

Tehran, Iran, August 4, 2015 – Korea caused a major sensation in the 18th Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship, stunning hosts and reigning successive two-time champions Iran in dramatic four sets, as China came from behind to beat Qatar in hard-fought five-set thriller in their round of tough last eight teams on Tuesday.
Contesting Pool E encounters, world No.10 Iran, which beat Korea in straight sets to reign supreme in the previous edition’s final clash in Dubai, the UAE two years ago and powered past Japan in the showdown to capture the last year’s Inchoen Asian Games volleyball competition in Korea, still kept faith to the similar starting line-up who helped Iran make a perfect run by not losing a single set to their respective rivals. They included Fayazi Damnabi Purya, Sharifat Mostafa, Zarini Hamzeh and Pirout Pour Farhad, while unbeaten Korea fielded star spikers such as Kwak Seungsuk, Choi Hongsuk and Choi Minho.
In the first set, Iran started aggressively, entertaining their large crowd of home spectators at the Azadi Sport Complex Hall 1 with their exceptional attacks and solid blocking, which foiled the strong visitors’ determined challenge. As expected, Iran sealed the opening set without much trouble 25-17.
Conceding one set, Korea put their acts together, with Kwak Seungsuk puncturing the Iranian defence with his sharp attacks in the second set which turned out to be a more thrilling battle when both sides traded offensive tactics to score more points. However, things turned sour for the host side when they lost the first set ever in the prestigious tournament, going down narrowly 26-28 to Korea for a 1-1 equaliser.
Winning one set boosted Korea’s confidence as they remained in form in the third set, mightily attacking the indomitable Iranians to win the set 25-20, much to the Koreans’ delight.
The fourth set was still closely-contested as Korea turned the table on Iran, hitting hard like lightning. The host team tried to counter-attack,  but Korea’s defence was splendid. The visitors continued their gutsy display at the final assault to win the thrilling set 25-23 and the pulsating encounter.
Choi Hongsuk scored a match-high 17 points including 13 kills from 25 attempts. He also led in blocking and serving skills with two points apiece. Fayazi Damnabi Purya scored 14 points for Iran.
After the match, Korean coach Moon Yonhkwan commented, “Iran were good at services but we were successfully controlling them. They were also strong offensively. I’m very delighted that my team proved that we can beat one of the strongest teams in the championship. The key of our success in this match was a strong spirit of cooperation and coordination among players in my team.”
Iranian coach Peyman Akbari expressed his upset over his team’s loss to Korea, saying that there are many things his players should learn from the match. “I can’t say I am happy with this loss, but it was still okay. It is good that at this stage we learned that we must fight to the last moment. Congratulations to the Korean team and their coach. We lost the second, third and fourth sets due to the individual errors among my players who were good at the targeted serves.
“However, the Koreans performed well in their reception. We made a little mistakes but the number of individual errors increasingly doubled. Even outside the ground at some points, we were making wrong decisions.
“My players do not have much experience but the Korean team played in the World League this year. Only two of my players have the experience of playing in the World League. As captain of the Korean team said, they come to play against the Asian champion and they, therefore, had nothing to lose. This made them play with less stress. I consider this loss as a valuable experience. I would not say I am happy but it was good to learn from the past. If it happens in the next round, we will not have any chance of making amends for the loss to get back to the competition. The Korean coach and players tried to display a mental fight during the match which put our team under pressure,” he added.
In the other Pool E tussle, Chinese Taipei, fielding most of the U23 players, captured the limelight by thrashing exhausted Thailand in tough straight sets 25-22 25-20 25-22.
In Pool F, world No.13 Australia set up an exciting clash against Japan, coming from behind to win the close four-set battle 23-25 25-21 25-23 25-21, while powerhouses China, bronze medallists at the previous edition, struggled hard to beat powerful Qatar in thrilling five sets 17-25 25-16 17-25 25-19 15-10.
At the completion of the round of last eight-team Pool E and Pool F encounters on Tuesday, Korea topped Pool E with eight points from straight three wins, while Iran finished second with six points from two wins against one loss. Chinese Taipei and Thailand came in third and fourth positions in the pool with three and one point respectively.
China emerged as the Pool F winners with eight points from successive three victories, followed by Qatar with six points from two wins against one loss. Australia finished third place with three points from one win against two losses, with winless Japan scoring one point.
In the Thursday’s knock-out quarter-finals, Korea take on Japan, China play Thailand, Qatar meet Chinese Taipei and Australia go up against Iran. The four winners in that round will next make the cut for the semi-finals, with the losers contesting the lower-ranked 5th-8th playoffs.
Meanwhile, in the 9th-16th classification round on Tuesday, Kuwait outperformed Oman in impressive four sets 25-22 23-25 25-21 25-23 in Pool G, while Kazakhstan fought hard against Pakistan to win a thrilling five-set encounter 21-25 25-20 18-25 25-17 15-12. In Pool H, Sri Lanka defeated Turkmenistan 3-1 (25-19 25-18 24-26 25-23) and Bahrain narrowly edged India 3-2 (25-16 15-25 14-25 25-22 16-14).
On Thursday, Kuwait are due to take on Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka play Oman, Kazakhstan challenge India and Bahrain will be pitted against Pakistan.
1st-8th PLACES
C0hinese Taipei b Thailand 3-0 (25-22 25-20 25-22)
Korea b Iran 3-1 (17-25 28-26 25-20 25-23)
Australia b Japan 3-1 (23-25 25-21 25-23 25-21)
China b Qatar 3-2 (17-27 25-16 17-25 25-19 15-10)
9th-16th PLACES
Kuwait b Oman 3-1 (25-22 23-25 25-21 25-23)
Kazakhstan b Pakistan 3-2 (21-25 25-20 18-25 25-17 15-12)
Sri Lanka b Turkmenistan 3-1 (25-19 25-18 24-26 25-23)
Bahrain b India 3-2 (25-16 15-25 14-25 25-22 16-14)
1. Korea 8 points
2. Iran 6 points
3. Chinese Taipei 3 points
4. Thailand 1 point
1. China 8 points
2. Qatar 6 points
3. Australia 3 points
4. Japan 1 point
1. Kazakhstan 8 points
2. Pakistan 6 points
3. Kuwait 4 points
4. Oman 0 point
1. Bahrain 8 points
2. India 7 points
3. Sri Lanka 3 points
4. Turkmenistan 0 point
MATCH SCHEDULE  (Local time)
Thursday, August 6, 2015
    Azadi Sport Complex Hall 1
    1pm: Korea v Japan (1E v 4F)
    3pm: China v Thailand (1F v 4E)
    5m: Qatar v Chinese Taipei (2F v 3E)
   7pm: Iran v Australia (2E v 3F)
    Azadi Sport Complex Hall 2
    9th-16th PLAYOFFS
    1pm: Kuwait v Turkmenistan (3G v 4H)
    3pm: Sri Lanka v Oman (3H v 4G)
    5pm: Kazakhstan v India (1G v 2H)
    7pm: Bahrain v Pakistan (1H v 2G)

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