China sweep Thailand in all-Asia clash


Osaka, Japan, October 7, 2018 - China held off Thailand 3-0 in an entertaining all-Asia Pool F clash at Osaka Municipal Central Gymnasium on Sunday night. In a repeat of the recent Asian Games final in Jakarta, China came home 28-26, 25-20, 25-23 to improve their tournament win-loss record to 5-1. Thailand dropped to 3-3 but, as ever, won the respect of the crowd and their opponents for a wonderful display of inventive, high-speed volleyball.

Captain Zhu Ting led the China offence with 20 points, including 19 spikes, and Gong Xiangyu was superb in scoring 18, with 17 spikes.

For Thailand, Sittirak Onuma top-scored with 14 points, Apinyapong added 13 and Kanthong Malika and Nuekjang Thatdao both scored 11.

It was no surprise to see Thailand starting quickly and taking the game to China, the world's top-ranked team. Even with the injured Kokram Pimpichaya and Kongyot Ajcharaporn watching from the stands, the Thais could rely on their old guard of Onuma Sittirak, Wilavan Apinyapong and Malika Kanthong to produce a steady supply of points, supported by the middle blockers Thatdao Nuekjang and captain Pleumjit Thinkaow.

In a great atmosphere, with large groups of flag-waving Thai and Chinese supporters, China also showed their quality through Yuan Xinyue, Zhang Changning on the left and Gong Xiangyu.

Every point was greeted with hysteria or despair on and off the court, and every tumbling rally drew gasps from the crowd. Leading 23-19, the Chinese were pegged back to 23-22 forcing a TO. In a frantic finish, China took the first set 28-26 on their third set point - a winner from Gong - after Thailand had missed one opportunity of their own.

In the second set, Gong was prominent again on both spike and block, notably stopping a Wilavan thunderball, and Yan Ni helped China to 16-11 at the second TTO.

Zhu's spikes and Yuan's block saw China home down the stretch 25-20 for 2-0.

Gong and Zhu were proving to be China's main threats, while the bulk of the Thai points were supplied by five players, led by Onuma.

The Chinese knew from experience that the Thais would never give up, and that they would have to keep the pressure on to complete a straight-sets sweep.

The third set followed this pattern exactly, as Malika and Wilavan served aces, Pleumjit struck with her trademark spike across court from an overhead set, and setter Tomkom Nootsara guided one into space in the front court.

China led 16-15 at the second TTO and southpaw spiker Li Yingying gave the Thai defence something different to deal with. China called a TO at 18-18 and again when leading 23-22. Gong, inevitably, settled it 25-23 on China's second match point.


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