Iraq came from a set down to defeat Sri Lanka 3-1 in the semi-final of the 1st Asian Men’s Volleyball Challenge Cup 2018, at the Sugathadasa Stadium.
Sri Lanka came back strongly after the defeat to Saudi Arabia..
Sri Lanka defeated United Arab Emirates 25-20, 25-17 & 25-15 in the quarter final while Iraq defeated Malaysia 25-27, 25-21, 25-23 & 25-20 in their quarter final.
Both teams started off well in the 1st set matching each other point for point. Towards the end of the set Sri Lanka managed to create a four-point gap and went onto win the 1st set 25-22.
Sri Lanka started off poorly as Iraq led 1-4 early in the 2nd set. Iraq played well and the hosts continued to make mistakes as the score read 9-19 at one stage. It was then that Sri Lanka got their act together scoring 5-points to make it 14-19. They managed to chip away at the lead and brought the deficit to just 2-points at 21-23.
Amidst a raucous crowd support Sri Lanka levelled the scores 24-24 after being down by 10-points. However, a poor service and an excellent block resulted in Iraq winning the crucial 2nd set 24-26.
The 3rd set was as close as the 1st set and this time it was Iraq who pulled away mid-way to lead 13-16. Sri Lanka was unable to bridge the gap as Iraq secured a 2-1 lead winning the set 20-25.
Sri Lanka started the must win 4th set giving away a few points but came back to lead 6-4. At one stage in the set the scores read 12-12 but the hosts lost their way losing 20-25.
For Sri Lanka Deepthi Romesh top scored with 20-points from 17 attacks, 2 blocks and 1 ace. Lasindu Methmal Wasanthapriya scored all his 13-points from attacks. Iraq’s Nameer Shamil Hussain scored 22 points from 16 attacks, 4 blocks and 2 aces. Lafta Majeed Safaa added 16-points from 14 attacks and 2 blocks.
A disappointed Head Coach of Sri Lanka Dejan Vulicevic had this to say;
“First I want to congratulate Iraq team who qualified for the Asian Championship. We failed as we didn’t make out target given by the Federation (Sri Lanka Volleyball Federation). This was a tough game. We started the 2nd set badly, we made a comeback in the game but we gave them a few points from mistakes.
After that we stopped playing. We tried to comeback with some changes but in the crucial moment of the match easy point we lost.”
In the 5th-8th place semi-finals Hong Kong defeated Mongolia 25-21, 20-25, 24-26, 25-17 & 15-10 and United Arab Emirates (UAE) beat Malaysia 21-25, 25-23, 36-24 & 25-21.
In the other semi-final Saudi Arabia defeated Bangladesh 25-15, 21-25, 25-12 & 26-24.