Povoa de Varzim, Portugal, May 28, 2011 - Portugal marked their return to the FIVB Volleyball World League in perfect fashion with a tense 3-2 (23-25, 27-25, 25-21, 24-26, 15-13) win over Finland in front of their home fans in Povoa de Varzim on Saturday evening.
In the first Pool C clash of the weekend Portugal dug deep to see off the visitors and take top spot in the group.
The first set began in shaky fashion as Portugal timidly gained a slight lead. Finland reacted, through a better block but Portugal used a ruthless attack to maintain control. The Nordics tied at 21 and took the lead with a block from Jari Tuominen and eventually closed the set to take the lead.
Finland initially led in the second but Portugal, driven by their triple block, closed the gap before Finland regained the lead. But Portugal fought back yet again as a sensational spike from Joao Jose closed the set.
The third set was again played point-by-point before the hosts took a three point advantage which they maintained throughout the set thanks again to their aggressive attack.
In the fourth set, Portugal broke the tie and appeared to be heading to victory. But the visitors had other ideas and closed up their block to force the match into a tie-break.
In a tie-break full of intensity Portugal kept their heads as the pressure began to rise. The hosts held off a late Finnish surge to steal the win and put out a statement of intent that they are ready for any side.
The two teams will meet again on Sunday at 15:00 GMT as Finland aim to salvage something from the weekend.