Saudi Arabia came from a set down to defeat Sri Lanka 3-1 in their final Group A match in the 1st Asian Men’s Volleyball Challenge Cup 2018 at the Sugathadasa Stadium.
Sri Lanka recorded their 2nd win in as many days, defeating…
Sri Lanka in their earlier matches defeated Hong Kong (25-15, 25-20 & 25-22) and Malaysia (25-16, 25-18 & 25-23) while Saudi Arabia too defeated Malaysia (25-17, 25-15, 18-25 & 25-17) and Hong Kong (25-18, 22-25, 25-22 & 25-15)
Sri Lanka came into the match, against the world ranked 50th Saudi Arabia, without three of their best players in Deepthi Romesh, Lasindu Methmal and Wasantha Lakmal, who were injured. However, the hosts capitalized of Saudi Arabia’s weaknesses to take a 4-points lead midway through the 1st set. They would maintain the buffer and win the set 22-25.
The 2nd set too was close in the beginning but again Sri Lanka managed to take a 3-point lead. Towards the end of the set Saudi Arabia rectified their mistakes and reversed the momentum to win 25-22. The 3rd and the 4th set saw the hosts making poor decisions and mistakes which allowed Saudi Arabia to secure a comfortable 25-19 & 25-20 win in the respective sets.
Nawaf Albakheet chipped in with 20 points for Saudi Arabia including 15 attacks and 5 solid blocks, while Ahmed Albakheet added 18 points including 10 kills and a team-leading 4 aces. Skipper Chamara Mihiran led Sri Lanka with 14 points from 13 attacks and one ace and Gayan Madushanka 12 attacks.
Head Coach Dejan Vulicevic was critical about Sri Lanka’s blocking;
“We had chances in the 2nd set but we didn’t take them. We didn’t receive well. Some players had injuries so I must rest them. Cannot risk them because after two days important match for the finals. We couldn’t make any blocks and they killed us with blocks.
We served good but couldn’t back that up with a good block. They are a good team but we have a good chance to reach the final.”
Saudi Arabia topped Pool A as expected with 9 points from three straight wins. Sri Lanka finished second with 6 points from two wins against one loss. Malaysia came in third place with 3 points from one win against two losses, with winless Hong Kong China in fourth place.
Teams from Pool B comprising Bangladesh, Iraq, the UAE and Mongolia were classified as R5, R6, R7 and R8.
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The quarter-finals will be held on Wednesday, with Saudi Arabia (R1) taking on Mongolia (R8), Sri Lanka (R2) playing the UAE (R7), Malaysia (R3) facing Iraq (R6) and Hong Kong China (R4) pitted against Bangladesh (R5).