Clinical Iran power past hosts to defend title

21 May 2017
Iran's Akbar Valaei blocks the ball during the gold medal match Iran v Azerbaijan at the Baku 2017.
Iran's Amirhossein Esfandiar celebrates a point during the gold medal match Iran v Azerbaijan at the Baku 2017.

Iran ended Azerbaijan's dreams of a volleyball double as they surged to victory in the men's gold-medal match on the penultimate day of the Islamic Solidarity Games.

The Azeri men's team were looking to match their female counterparts in winning the title, and they started brightly at a raucous Crystal Hall on Sunday evening in Baku.

The Azeris, fresh from beating Algeria in the semi-finals, raced into a 6-4 first-set lead, but Iran are formidable opponents and they hit back superbly as they moved into a 17-11 lead.

The Iranians were demonstrating tremendous solidity in defence as they started to snuff out the Azeris' threat, and they showed plenty of agility and guile in attack to take the opening set 25-16 - to the delight of the vocal Iranian supporters inside Crystal Hall.

Despite dominating the opening set, Iran were on the back foot for the majority of the second as the hosts surged into an early four-point lead which they maintained until late in the set.

But reigning champions and Asian Games gold medallists Iran showed why they are such a force as they produced a gritty comeback to haul themselves level at 22-22.

Set points came and went for both nations but it was Ateinouri Behrouz's men who pinched it 29-27 to move within one set of the gold medal.
The third set was extremely tight with the teams locked at 10-10 at one stage, but the Iranians, who endured a marathon five-setter in their semi-final against Turkey, turned on the style once more to establish a 20-15 lead.

The Azeris, who were also unbeaten prior to this gold-medal showdown, threw caution to the wind as they attempted to claw back the deficit, but they were simply outclassed as Iran sealed the third set 25-18 for a comprehensive 3-0 victory.

Captain Rasoul Aghchehli was instrumental for Iran as he hit 22 points and smashed 19 spikes, while Aliasghar Mojarad was a rock in defence as he won four blocks.

Iran's 25-16, 29-27, 25-18 victory means they have now won men's volleyball gold at every Islamic Solidarity Games, while the Azeris had to settle for silver.

Algeria clinched a shock bronze in the battle for third place with a 3-1 victory against Turkey.

The Turks took the opening set but the Algerians responded as they battled to a 20-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-22 win

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