QIQIHAR, China, September 17, 2003 - Korea rallied to beat China 3-1 (16-25, 25-19, 26-24, 25-23) to win the first leg of the 2003 Challenge Cup Asia Men's Volleyball Tournament in Qiqihar, a northeastern city of China on Wednesday.
In the last match of the tournament, Korea came from one set down to take three sets in a row to defeat China for the second time in two weeks to finish first with three wins from three matches. China was second with a record of two wins and one loss. Korea had edged China 3-2 to take the Asian Men Volleyball Championship title earlier in September in Tianjin of China.
The Chinese national team, which substituted the 33-year-old veteran setter Wang Hebing with 23-year-old He Jiong and key wing spiker Shi Hairong with Hu Song, staged waves of attack from the beginning of the first set, leading their opponents 8-4 and never giving the Koreans any chances to counterattack. China took the set 25-16.
However, the Asian Champions regained their form and after leveling the score at 5-5, they soon took the initiative, leading all the way to win the second set 25-19. The third and fourth sets were hotly contested with the Koreans and Chinese exchanging the lead several times, but the Koreans showed better skills and richer experience while the Chinese, on the contrary, made some unforced errors, especially in serving, which cost the Chinese spikers dearly and they lost the two sets narrowly 26-24 and 25-23.
Di Anhe, head coach of the Chinese team said after the match both teams played very well and the Chinese players did well in blocking but not very good in serving, especially in the critical moments of the match.
The Korean head coach Cha Joo-hyun said the two teams were on the same level but "we had better luck than China".
Chinese Taipei, who lost to Korea and China with the same score of 3-1 earlier in the tournament, overcame Japan 3-2 (25-23, 25-14, 18-25, 15-25 and 15-11) to finish third in the four-team round robin with one win and two losses.
Japan settled for the fourth place after three straight defeats.
The four teams will move to Chinese Taipei for the second leg contest of the 2003 Challenge Cup Asia Men's Volleyball Tournament.