Cuba produce epic comeback against China
Beijing, China, August 13 - Cuba staged an inspiring comeback from two sets down to outgun defending champion China in five sets on Wednesday.
Capital Indoor Stadium: The scene for Cuba's win over China
It took the Cubans more than two hours to claim their third consecutive victory 18-25, 14-25, 25-23, 32-30 and 15-13 despite the overwhelming cheers of more than 15,000 home fans for the Chinese.
The two teams, both unbeaten after two preliminary rounds, needed to win this match to ensure a better position in the quarter-finals. However, Cuba's high jumpers proved a cut above the host, especially on defending in the latter part of the match.
Rosir Calderon and China's Wang Yimei were best scorers of the two teams, both contributing 26 points.
It was the fourth clash between host China and the three-time Olympic champion Cuba since June with Cuba winning two of the three matches.
The Cubans displayed incredible jumping to spike devastatingly at the net to lead 4-3 at the opener. From then on, however, they made chains of serve and spike errors to help China take over lead 8-6. The Chinese continued their unchallenged run to capture the set 25-18 with fast attack and solid defense.
China still dominated the second set after Cuba became more prone with unforced serving and spiking errors. Since a 8-8 draw, China launched a brilliant 14-4 run to improve to 22-12, thanks to the devastating spikes and powerful serves of its wing spiker Wang Yimei and middle blocker Ma Yunwen.
With an-out-of-court serve of Rachel Sanchez, China took an effortless set 25-14.
China still controlled the game at the first half of the third set to lead 15-11, when Cuba found their rhythm to stage a stunning 8-0 run to take over lead 19-15 with ace serves and high spikes from the left side of the court.
The Cuban maintained their advantage though China managed to get close to 24-23. Ruiz's splendid cross-court spike to help Cuba to pull one set back 25-23.
The fourth set turned out to be a tit-for-tat battlefield and the distance between the two team never exceeded two points, but China managed to take the match points 24-23.
Glittering Calderon exhibited her mighty spikes to save four match points, but it was five-time Olympian Ruiz, who scored three consecutive points, to break a 29-29 tie and clinch the match point for Cuba. With a spike of Sanchez, Cuba take the thriller 32-30.
In the decider, China squandered an early led 3-0 and Cuba reinforced its defense to exchange lead with China in turns. At the 13-all tie, Calderon acted as the rescuer of the team again. With a pair of spikes, she helped Cuba to take the match 15-13.
China will face the United States in the next match on Friday, while Cuba will meet Japan. (Xinhua)