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Italy narrowly overcome Iran in Milan

Savani and the Iran block caused constant problems for the host side in Monday's final Pool A match
Milan, Italy, September 27, 2010 – Iran went perilously close to claiming a second-round spot and a major scalp in the form of Italy in Pool A of the 2010 FIVB Men's World Championship. In the end, however, the hosts prevailed in the final first-round match at the Mediolanum Forum, clinching a tight 3-2 (25-21, 25-10, 21-25, 26-28, 15-13) win.

It took Italy half of the opening set to find their rhythm from previous matches, but they somehow closed the early deficit to take the opener 25-21. Italy did not allow Iran any opportunities during the second set and, primarily through clever blocking, the hosts closed 25-10. The third set was a different matter as Iran prevailed 25-21. The underdogs remained on top in the fourth and although Italy managed to tie the score, it was too little too late as they went down 26-28. So to a closely-fought final set which the hosts finally edged after some nervy moments,  securing the match 15-13.

A winning block from Italy's Cristian Savani opened the first set of the match, but Iran responded immediately and led 8-7 at the first technical timeout (FFT). The hosts did not allow Iran to seize the opportunity, however, and tied the score at 10-10, through a wonderful reception from libero Davide Marra. Although Iran nosed in front again, Alessandro Fei levelled at 13-13 before giving his team a 14-13 lead with a winning block. Iran stepped up again to draw level at 15-15 but middle-block Andrea Sala drove Italy to the second technical timeout (STT) leading 16-15. After Iran restored parity at 17-17, Matej Cernic put the hosts ahead again with four winning attacks in a row,
forcing Iran to call a timeout at 19-17. Luigi Mastrangelo's blocks stopped Iran at the net and Savani gave Italy the first set-ball of the match, with Ivan Zaytsev's block closing the opening set 25-21.

Fei scored the first point of the second set for the hosts and Italy led 5-2 when a Fei block consolidated the lead. Trailing 6-2, Iran called for a timeout and they were 8-3 behind by the FTT. Fei appeared virtually unbeatable at the net as he stopped the Iran attacks and, amid a series of serving faults from both teams, Mastrangelo drove Italy to the STT with a 16-8 advantage. The Iranians called for a timeout at 18-8 but the momentum was Italy's and Sala's block secured the first set-ball and shut the door of the set at 25-10.

Farhad Nazari opened the third-set scoring and although Savani was working from the back to accumulate points for the hosts, Iran were 8-6 ahead at the FTT as a block by Hamzeh
Zarini stopped Fei. Mastrangelo reduced the deficit to a single point only for Iran to seize the initiative again and move 12-9 in front. Zarini dug deep with two winning attacks in a row, forcing Italy to call a timeout when 14-10 behind. Cernic chose the tramline to add to the hosts' score but by the STT, Iran led 16-12. Italy called a timeout with Iran ahead by 20-14 and they then narrowed the gap at 21-18 with two consecutive Michal Lasko attacks. A Sala block forced Iran to request a timeout when the hosts were just a point down at 22-21. Iran did not relinquish their advantage, however, and Seyed Mohammad Mousavi's final block secured the set for Hossein Maadani's men. 

There was little to separate the teams at the start of the fourth set, Iran reaching the FTT 8-7 in front. Italy coach Andrea Anastasi responded by introducing Dragan Travica and Lasko, but with Iran leading 13-9 the hosts called a timeout. They were still behind at the STT, with Iran 16-12 in front. Italy then narrowed the deficit to two points at 21-19, prompting Iran to request a timeout but the home side could not retain the initiative and gifted the opposition a first set-point through a serving fault. The Iranians spurning two opportunities to claim the set, the second through Lasko's winning spike, but Mohammad Kazem finally took the third set-ball for his team and Nazari made it 28-26.

Savani and Lasko secured Italy's first two points of the final set but Iran came back and with some impressive blocking frustrating the hosts, they managed to tie the score at 7-7. They then moved 10-8 in front, but Italy responded. Sala's ace made it 11-11 and when Italy won the next point, Iran called a timeout. A serving fault tied the score again, but Lasko came to the fore just when it mattered, winning points for 13-12 and then 14-13. Italy had victory in their grasp and duly closed the match 15-13.

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FIVB Press Department Director - Richard Baker
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Email: press@fivb.org

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