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Japan run survives Serbia test

A full house at the Yoyogi National Stadium saw a superb match between Japan and Serbia, edged by the hosts

Tokyo, Japan, November 3, 2010 – Japan and Serbia served up a superb contest in the meeting of the two unbeaten Pool A teams – giving the crowd at the Yoyogi National Stadium their full money's worth before the hosts emerged as 3-1 victors (28-26, 29-27, 18-25, 27-25).

FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 official page

The Japanese triumph completed a 100 per cent record for Masayoshi Manabe's side in their five first-round games at this FIVB Women's Volleyball World Championship, earning them first place in the pool ahead of the Serbians. Leading the way for Japan was their ace Saori Kimura, with many of her 27 points coming at critical moments. Serbia captain Jelena Nikolic top-scored for Zoran Terzic's team with 25.

The first set was a thriller that opened with Saori swinging for Japan, dropping three points against the Serbians to put the home side 8-5 up. From there Serbia hung close, with the teams exchanging points until a Saori spike sailed long, allowing the girls in blue to level at 16-16. Serbia edged 23-22 ahead on an Ai Yamamoto spike that flew long, but a couple of errors let Japan climb back to 24-24. On their third set point, Japan clinched a 28-26 success thanks to a wonderful attack from Saori which gave her seven for the set.

Serbia snatched five out of six points at the start of the second set, but Saori and Yukiko Ebata brought Japan back to within a point at 10-9. Serbia's Nikolic then turned on the jets, producing a pair of kills and a scorching serve to carry her side clear again at 18-14, yet once more a determined Japan rallied to tie the scores. Serbia ended up having four set points, three of which were crushed by Saori spikes. By contrast, Kaori Inoue needed only one chance to finish another incredible set 29-27 with two well-places serves for Japan.

The third set began in tight fashion until Serbia's Sanja Malagurski gave her team the advantage with consecutive blocks on Ebata for a 14-10 lead. Serbia preserved that margin courtesy of powerful attacking by Brizitka Molnar and Malagurski, eventually taking the set 25-18 when a Saori serve sailed wide to silence the home crowd.

Inoue shrugged off that setback with two great blocks on Nikolic and Milena Rasic to help Japan go up 9-5 in the fourth. Serbia managed to fight all the way back and restore parity late in the set, but again two of their set points were neutralised by Saori attacks. With the fans on the edge of their sets, Japan then took an amazing set, 27-25, and the match on an errant Serbian spike.

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