Nagoya, Japan, November 21, 2009 - Cuba held off Egypt 3-2 in a magnificent match on the third day of the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup 2009 with the NORCECA champions claiming victory 25-17, 23-25, 25-14, 23-25, 15-7 to improve their win-loss record to 2-1. Egypt, who played superbly but lost their way in the tiebreaker, slipped to 0-3.
Cuba reached the first TTO with a three-point lead, 8-5, the highlight for Egypt being a Rashad block on Wilfredo Leon. A swift spike from setter Hierrezuelo and a Camejo block on the dangerous Ahmed Salah moved Cuba forward, but the NORCECA champions were having trouble defending the fluid back-court attacks of Moneim. Down 14-9, Egypt called a TO. Camejo and Rashad traded lusty blows down the middle, and Cuba were in command at 16-10 at the second TTO. In a game of few rallies, the Cubans always had enough points on the board to take the first set 25-17, the 16-year-old Leon ending it in style with a crashing winner down the middle.
Egyptian southpaw Salah, who had registered just one point – and that a block – in the first set, began cranking out the points in the second set, helping his team lead 8-6 at the first TTO. Moneim took the players into the break with a magnificent leap and smash over the Cuban block. On the restart, Cuban captain Roberlandy Simon was waiting for Moneim, however, and blocked him in emphatic style. The Egyptians were playing some of their best Volleyball of the week in the second set, taming the Cuban fire with good blocking and penetrating the defence with some slick moves. Cuba had gone off the boil and trailed 16-12 at the second TTO. Two consecutive aces from Simon, the first with a well-placed dipper into the mid-court, the second with a fireball that the Egyptian defence could not handle, closed the gap to one point, 19-18, and Egypt called a TO. Middle blocker Abdel Latif and the outstanding Moneim kept the pressure on Cuba, and Rashad’s smart block nudged them ahead 23-22. Salah brought up set point and Moneim finished it 25-23 for 1-1.
Cuba refocused for the third set and led 8-4 at the first TTO thanks to good work at the net from Simon and the blocking of Camejo on Moneim. Simon’s defence was complemented by the attack of Sanchez, Leal and Leon, and the Cubans were looking good again at 16-9 at the second TTO. A thundering Saleh Fathy spike, the blocking of Ahmed Youssef and serving of Ahmed Abdalla gave Cuba plenty to think about, but Simon’s superb serves closed the set 25-14 for 2-1.
With both teams going for their shots, the spectators were treated to an entertaining spectacle as Cuba led 8-7 at the first TTO of the fourth set. The soaring centre play of Abdel Latif lifted some of the attacking burden off Egypt’s outside hitters, and a terrific Abdalla block on Leal took the African aces into the second TTO ahead 16-14. The back-court defence, passing and counter-attacking of Egypt, with Moneim back in full flow, moved them ahead 20-16 and sent Cuba into a TO. A slicing Moneim spike down the right had coach Giacobbe jumping for joy on the sideline, and Abdel Latif pounced at the net for 22-19. Fathy brought up three set points at 24-21, but coach Giacobbe had to take them off on a serve error by Salah and attack miss by Fathy. With one last chance, southpaw Salah soared and spiked on the right to close it, 25-23, 2-2.
Simon made sure Cuba got off to a good start in the tiebreaker, and Egypt had to call a TO down 6-3. Sanchez turned up the power and Camejo’s strength at the net enabled Cuba to turn around in control at 8-3. Egypt called a TO at 9-4, but could not recover as the score grew to 12-4. Simon pounded Cuba to match point at 14-6 and Leon ended the two marathon in style with a trademark spike to finish the set and match 15-7.