Sapozhkov helps Russia beat Iran in tie-break thriller in Bahrain


Manama, Bahrain, July 19, 2019 – Maksim Sapozhkov exploded with 34 points to lead Russia triumph in the thrilling tiebreaker (21-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-21, 16-14) against Iran on Friday in the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship.

Sapozhkov recorded 28 attacks, four blocks and two aces to outscore Iranian opposite Porya Yali who collected 30 attack points.

Iran were driven by the strong performances of Amirhossein Esfandiar and Mehran Feyzemamdoust on offence and defence, including their respective four and seven blocks, which was the team’s total block output.

Russia, on the other hand, had Sapozhkov, Ivan Kuznetcov and Pavel Tetukhin hitting the double-digit scoring mark, while having less errors against their rivals.

Iran opened the match with a 25-21 win, but Russia retaliated with a better margin to win the second set 25-19. In the third set, Yali and Zapozhkov had an attack showdown that resulted to a tight race, which Iran won by a two-point margin, then Russia managed to force the tiebreaker with great plays orchestrated by Konstantin Abaev.

The Russians led by as much as two points in the deciding set but Iran rallied to tie the game at 10-all with a block by Esfandiar. The Iranian outside spiker made another block to snatch the lead from Russia, but the European side reacted quickly to deadlock. Russia and Iran traded spikes that resulted in a series of deadlocks, until a Russian hit and an Iranian net violation closed the match in favour of the Europeans 16-14.

In the other match in Pool C, the Czech Republic recorded their first victory in the tournament with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-21) win over Tunisia. The Czech team had an overall good group effort led by Marek Sotola, who was the most productive on offence with eight attacks and four aces. His teammates Jan Svoboda and Lukas Vasina added 10 points each to the win.

Russia now lead Pool C with two victories, while Iran and Czech Republic have 1-1 win-loss card.

Meanwhile, China and Bahrain are also enjoying a 2-0 winning start in Pool A, following their victories over Puerto Rico and Morocco, respectively.

China logged a 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-23) win over Puerto Rico in Pool A. Xiu Chengcheng and Zhai Deijun teamed up once again to power China’s offence. Xiu delivered 17 points and Zhai added 10 points, while Sebastian Negron was the lone player on the Puerto Rican side who scored in double figures with 13 markers.

Hosts Bahrain made a great comeback against Morocco to win 3-2 (25-14, 23-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-12). Bahraini opposite Hasan Mohamed led all scorers with 23 points made from 19 attacks and four blocks. Oussama Elazhari top scored for the Moroccan side with 18 points.

China and Bahrain will face each other on Saturday, July 20, to decide which team will claim leadership in Pool A.

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