Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, May 26, 2017 – Pakistan overcame a strong challenge from Kyrgyzstan to edge past the host side in a hard-fought five-set thriller at the Central Asian Zonal Qualification Tournament for the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship on Friday.
The dramatic 25-18, 25-18, 15-25, 22-25, 16-14 win handed Pakistan two points, with one point awarded to the losers. To increase their chances of winning the tournament and the lone ticket from this zone to contest the Final Round Qualifications in Iran in August, Pakistan next play a must-win match against Kazakhstan on Saturday.
Ahead of the competition, the opening ceremony was held at the 1,000-seater Gazprom Gym, which was packed to capacity. The three participating teams – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan – paraded into the gym and Elmurza Satybaldiev, the president of the Volleyball Federation of Kyrgyzstan, presided over the opening ceremony. Also in attendance were Almaznek Kasenov, Director of the Directorate on Olympic Sports of Kyrgyzstan, and AVC Secretary-General Shanrit Wongprasert.
Pakistan got off to a brilliant start to take an initial 8-4 lead in the opening set before stretching it to 16-9, thanks to their powerful attacks, solid blocks and impressive reception. Despite a good fightback, Kyrgyzstan found the visitors too strong and went down 18-25 in the first set.
In the second set, Kanybek Uulu Onolbek and Idirisov Emil formed a strong frontline for Kyrgyzstan, but their attacking attempts were in vain due to their rivals’ impeccable defence. Jehan Murad and Khan Aimal took turns penetrating the Kyrgyzstan defence with their powerful attacks to help Pakistan take the second set 25-18.
Backed their home fans, Kyrgyzstan started to produce the goods in the third set. Kanybek Uulu Onolbek became a smashing machine, unleashing several sharp attacks to put Kyrgyzstan in front 16-10. The hosts continued to perform well and took the set 25-15
The fourth set was again dominated by Kyrgyzstan. With Kanybek Uulu Onolbek dominant for Kyrgyzstan and Jehan Murad the same for Pakistan, the spectators were entertained in the action-packed set, with both sides exchanging points from attack hits and blocks. However, Kyrgyzstan fared better to win the closely contested set 25-22.
Pakistan led the tiebreak 10-9 and had matchpoint at 14-13 before eventually converting at 16-14.