India on Saturday booked a place in its maiden final of the Asian Men’s Under-23 Volleyball Championship with a three-sets-to-one win over Pakistan in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw.
Pakistan came into the match in great form but failed to capitalise on the advantage of winning the first set as India won 21-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-18 to set up a summit clash with Chinese Taipei on Sunday.
Pakistan was largely untroubled in the first set as it stayed ahead of India till the 20-point mark, when it easily closed it out.
India began the second much more confidently as key players Shon John and Amit Gulia found their touch. After going neck and neck, Pakistan’s game began to falter halfway though the set, allowing India to win easily.
The third set too began on a competitive note, with neither team able to take a lead of more than two points till halfway through, as the Indian men then raised their game to put some distance between them and their opponents.
Pakistan recovered to level the scores at 18-all and again at 22-all, but John took the set away from it with a series of decisive spikes for India.
India then capitalised on its advantage and made the most of the Pakistan team’s frayed nerves to win the fourth set and the match.
Sticking to strengths
After the match, coach Pritam Singh Chauhan said the Indian men were under no pressure despite the match being a knockout fixture against Pakistan.
“For us, every opposition is the same. Our objective is to win and proceed to the next challenge. We knew our strengths and we stuck to them despite being down 1-0 after the first set,” he said.
“The kind of comebacks these boys have made in the tournament goes on to show how mentally tough they have become in their campaign. As a coach, I cannot ask for more. I am extremely confident that whatever little errors they made today will be ironed out by tomorrow.”
By reaching the final, India also qualified for the upcoming FIVB Men’s Under-23 World Championships.
Earlier on Saturday, Chinese Taipei defeated Japan 3-2 in a hard-fought contest in the other semifinal.
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