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Paykan push Belchatow close in five-setter

A triple block by PGE Skra Belchatow as they beat Paykan in a match full of ups and downs on Thursday

Doha, Qatar, December 16, 2010 – Silver medallists at last year's FIVB Men's Club World Championship, PGE Skra Belchatow of Poland needed five long and physically demanding sets to edge out Iran's Paykan (24-26, 25-21, 25-22, 20-25, 15-12) in the hardest-fought game so far at this year's tournament on Thursday.

Belchatow have had a busy schedule in the past few weeks and may have struggled a little fatigue in a match that featured many unforced mistakes, with 33 from the Poles and 34 from Paykan. Mariusz Wlazly, the Belchatow captain, finished as the top scorer with 19 points while three Iranians contributed 15 apiece for Paykan – Mohammad Mousavi, Medhi Bazargarde and  Rahman Davoodi.

Paykan's supporters' singing and drumming helped create an electric atmosphere at the Al Garafa sports hall, which fired up the Iranian club as they went up 8-6 at the First Technical Timeout (FTT). Belchatow, coming off a number of stellar wins in the CEV Champions League as well as in domestic competition, struggled initially before drawing level at 10-all with an ace from French veteran Stephane Antiga.

Iran are one of the up-and-coming forces in the international Volleyball arena and the boys in blue were showing good, effective combinations in attack to stay close to their opponents. By putting additional pressure from the serving line, Paykan were in front again at the Second Technical Timeout (STT), leading 16-14. A few moments later Polish coach Jacek Nawrocki decided to change his setter, bringing off veteran Miguel Falasca for Pawel Woicki, and Antiga immediately scored from his favourite position.

Yet Bazargarde blocked Bartosz Kurek for 22-21 and Paykan won a first set point at 24-23 that Wlazly diverted with a splendid crosscourt spike. Davoodi earned a second Iranian set ball and this time the Asian champions profited as Michal Winiarski sent the ball too wide.

Belchatow's response was to make a flying start to the second set, taking an 8-3 lead. Kurek and company were well ahead at 16-12 but Peyman Akbari's charges bounced back to tie the set at 19-all. Fortunately for Belchatow, they were able to take advantage of a lack of coordination between the Iranian setter, Amir Hosseini, and one of his spikers to regain control. The eastern Europeans were now applying pressure from the serving line through Karol Klos and a long Paykan spike secured the set for Belchatow.

The third set was another close-run affair. Belchatow had beaten Paykan in straight sets in last year's group stage but they were providing much tougher opposition here; a particular difficulty was where to position the block against the attacks of the Iranians whose setter was always varying his options. But finally the Polish team got the upper hand at 25-23 as Wlazly and Winiarski concluded two decisive rallies.

Paykan fought back in the fourth, pulling away after a close beginning to claim the set by a five-point margin and draw level once more. So to the tiebreaker. Belchatow got off to the better start yet Paykan stayed in contention until near the end when Marcin Mozdzonek and Winiarski helped the Polish side pull clear, with Mozdzonek blocking to seal the win.

  

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