Surgut, Russia, July 11, 2009 – Japan gave Russia a hurting lesson with an unexpected 3-1 (25-23, 25-23, 22-25, 25-21) victory over the Olympic bronze medalist at the 2009 FIVB World League match on Saturday at the Sparta Arena in Surgut.
After sweeping tree-straight sets from Japan on Friday in the first match of the weekend the Russians evidently planned to continue their reign over the Asian team on Saturday. The Europeans also defeated the Japanese team twice (3-0, 3-1) when the teams played in Japan on June. Even the fans believed it would just another quick match as there was one thousand less spectators in the tribunes of the Sparta arena compared to the Friday’s night.
But Japan, the last-ranked team in the pool C, surprised everybody with the victory that improved their record to 3-7. Russia dropped to 6-4 and minimized their chances to win a wild card to the Final Round.
Maeda Kazuki and Tatsuya Fukuzava led Japan, both with 18 points. Yury Berezhko was the top scorer of the Russian team with 16 points.
Russia will travel to Bulgaria the next weekend. Japan will go to Cuba to meet the leader of Pool C Cuba.
The Japanese men came in determined to prove that they were a better team than they showed in the first match while Russia came into the game a little bit relaxed after Friday’s easy victory. The hosts with setter Alexander Butko in the starting lineup got off convincingly leading 8-5 by the first TTO. But on the restart their reception faltered and Japan managed to level the score at 12. The Asian team went on to put pressure on the Russians receivers and a block on Maxim Mikhailov made it 22-20 in their flavor. Russian head coach Daniele Bagnoli called for a time-out and his players soon tied the score 23-23 thanks to a pair of effective blocks. It was now time for the Japan head coach Tatsuya Ueta to call his guys out. The Japanese came back on the court to gain a set point and converted it immediately – 25-23.
The second set was a real nightmare for the Russian team. The Japanese players knew they would have to be at their best to overcome the height and power of Russia's blockers and they did it compensating their lack of height with an intelligence and quickness of their combinations. Russian trailed 3-8, 11-16 and were unable to stop the Japanese spikers. The situation changed after Russian middle-blocker Alexander Volkov was replaced by the veteran Alexey Kuleshov. The Russian block eventually started to work giving the hosts a chance to bounce back. The score were tied at 19 but at the end of the set the inspired Japanese men found the strength to speed up their game. The Russians failed to catch up. Maxim Mikhailov served into the net to hand Japan the second set – 25-23.
The Russian side was shocked after two sets lost, not only the players but the coaches were emotionless for a while. However Daniele Bagnoli kept several of the most experienced players at the bench. He seemed to be waiting for the reaction of his team on the court. There were some improvements in it's performance. Russia was ahead most of the time in the set but the Japanese guys did their best with impressive defence and blocking to keep themselves close. However they made a series of mistakes in the end of the partial allowing the Russians to win the set - 25-22.
The service and block turned to be the main weapons of Japan in the forth set. The spectators could only wonder how these components were not any more the strongest points of the Russian team. On Saturday the Russian blockers were completely outwitted by the Japanese setter Daisuke Usami and the Russian servers were powerless. There was no hope for the Russian team to come back in the last set that finally was closed out at 25-20 for Japan.