Tenacious Iran frustrates Qatar to retain Asian Club volleyball crown
MANILA, Philippines—Anchored by its tenacious blocking, Vatin Varamin-Iran reigned supreme in the Asian Men’s Club Volleyball championship anew.
The Iranians got a whopping 18 points off blocks in frustrating Al-Rayyan-Qatar, 19-25, 25-17, 26-24, 25-16, in the gold medal match — a testament of how their vaunted defense have kept them on top.
It was Iran’s 10th title in the competition, earning them the right to represent Asia in 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Champion in May for the second straight year.
Incidentally, it was also the Iran’s second crown at the Mall of Asia Arena since nabbing the Fiba Asia championship last year against the Philippines.
In its third set comeback from 17-22, which proved to be the turning point as the Iranians dodged a 1-2 deficit, all but one of their last four markers came from blocks on Qatar’s best attackers.
“We were very lucky in the crucial moment in the match. I think we finished in a good way but we risked a lot in this final. But we are happy for the win,” said Iran’s Italian coach Daniele Bagnoli.
A power hit from Gerardo Cala put Qatar at set point, 24-21, but a hit and a block from Mojtaba Mirzajanpour, and back-to-back rejections from Seyed Mousavi, which frustrated Italian import Savani Cristian further, sealed the turnaround.
A red card to open the fourth set sank Al-Rayyan Qatar further as that allowed the inspired Iran-side to open a 7-1 lead, which it never relinquished. Fittingly, a block from Mousavi on Cala clinched the championship.
Mousavi, who was named the best first middle blocker of the annual tournament, finished with 13 points, seven coming off blocks for the champions.
Shahram Mahmoudi, who paced the Iranians with 19 points including four blocks, was named the Most Valuable Player.
Qatar, who booted out the eventual-seventh placer Philippines’ PLDT Home TVolution in the quarterfinals, failed to capitalize on its opening set victory as Savani got checked later in the match.
“They were the best team here,” said Qatar’s coach Arbutina Igor in the post-match presser.
Savani, who represented Italy in the 2012 London Olympics, finished with 19 points, Cala added 17 while Saeed Ibrahim had 13 for the Qataris in a losing effort.