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China end Japan's unbeaten run

A packed Yoyogi stadium on Saturday witnessed Japan's first defeat of the tournament - 3-1 at the hands of China

Tokyo, Japan, November 6, 2010 – China stunned Japan in their second-round clash at the FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 in Tokyo on Saturday, defeating the hosts 3-1 (25-23, 25-23, 27-29, 25-12).

The win – their 37th against Japan in 43 matches – saves China's World Championship campaign, moving the world No.3 to a 1-3 win-loss second-round record to stay in touch with the top six. Japan's first defeat of the tournament puts the world No.5 on 3-1.

FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 official page

The Japan team, backed by the usual noisy home crowd, started out brightly with Kaori Inoue, Saori Kimura and Yukiko Ebata all contributing well, but China settled down and Wang Yimei made a couple of grand thumps to draw her team back from 3-6 to 6-6, when a long spike by Ai Yamamoto put China ahead.

China coach Yu Juemin called a timeout after his team went from 10-9 up to 12-10 behind but, with Wang thundering down some heavy hits and Saori responding for Japan, the game remained evenly poised – from 13-12 in Japan’s favour to 23-22 for China. Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe called a timeout as Japan fell 22-21 behind following a wide spike by Megumi Kurihara and he called another a point later after Wang blocked a shot by Ebata.

Some fine defending by Japan and a smart spike by Kurihara put the home side within a point of China at 23-22, prompting Yu to call a timeout – the third in three points. Ma Yunwen then brought up set-point with a spike and although Kimura saved one, Xue Ming put China 1-0 up with a good crosscourt shot.

There was little to separate the Asian rivals in the first phase of the second set. Kimura and Ebata continued to lead the way for Japan, while Wang and Ma were the main threats for China. But after leading at the First Technical Timeout (FTT), Japan dropped four straight points, prompting Manabe to call a timeout. Li Juan and her teammates started to find holes in Japan's usually impregnable defence – and the hosts' attack was not functioning at full power either, allowing China's defenders to control the ball and set up more attacks.

That changed after Japan fell 16-13 behind at the Second Technical Timeout (STT). Yamamoto came up with a strong spike, Kurihara blocked Wang and some excellent defending set up a superb spike by Saori, bringing the teams level at 16. Wang came up with the goods again, though, spiking China back into the lead and forcing a point from one of her booming serves. Wang then spiked China into a two-point lead at 23-21, and although Ebata and Saori brought the scores level, Inoue sent her next serve wide and China had set-point. Ebata drilled wide and China were 2-0 up.

In the third set, Japan again started brightly, Saori coming up with a big spike and Yamaguchi blocking Li, but two hits by Zhou Suhong brought China back into the game and Ma pounded down a series of spikes. The introduction of captain Erika Araki gave Japan more steel, while errors were creeping into Wang's game. Ebata came up with three big hits to lead Japan's surge, and Saori and Yamaguchi also added telling blows as they took a 16-12 lead at the STT.

When Wang got lucky with a spike and Saori and Araki were both blocked, Japan's margin was down to a single point, forcing Manabe to call a timeout. A Wang spike and a block by Xue Ming on Saori prompted Manabe to call another sideline conference but Japan were soon back in front. Indeed with Wang sending a serve into the net and Ebata blocking Zhang Lei, it was now Yu’s turn to call a timeout. Japan held a 24-23 lead but Ma blocked Ebata and the Chinese then had three match-points. Saori saved two of them and earned Japan a set-point of their own, which Inoue converted with a brilliant block on Wang.

Japan quickly went off the boil in the fourth and early errors hurt their chances as they fell behind at 8-4 at the FTT when Wei Qiuyue blocked Ebata. On the next point, Saori had another of her reception mishaps and Manabe called a timeout with Japan five points behind. Ebata tried to claw back some of China's lead, but a service ace by Wang put China six ahead and prompted another timeout by Manabe. But it was soon all over. Japan could find no answer to China's spiking power and defensive ability. That was highlighted by a sensational rescue by Zhou as China won 12 of the last 15 points. Ma earned match point with a spike and Li sent a shot down the line to hand Japan their first loss of the tournament.

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