Kobe, Japan, September 30, 2018 - As a typhoon headed for Kobe outside, Russia survived a storm of their own inside the Kobe Green Arena by beating Thailand 3-2 in a brilliant five-setter on Sunday night. The Thais, ranked 16th in the world to Russia's No. 5, threatened to cause a huge upset by winning the first two sets 25-21, 25-17. Russia found their form just in time to take the next three 25-13, 25-21, 15-9 for a superb comeback win.
Nataliya Goncharova led the Russian revival with a game-high 30 points, including 27 spikes, and middle blocker Irina Koroleva added 17 with seven blocks. For the second night running, Kokram Pimpichaya led Thailand with 19 points - all spikes.
Unable to find any rhythm in the first set, and suffering at the hands of the Thai block led by captain Pleumjit, Russia called a TO when trailing by three at 13-10. Thailand's defence pressured the Russian spikers into attacking errors, and the Thais led 16-10 at the second TTO.
Kokram Pimpichaya, 25-point top scorer in the previous night's 3-2 victory over Korea, and Kongyot Ajcharaporn were able to find holes in the Russian defence, and a gentle, floating ace from Kanthong Malika added to Russia's discomfort.
Nataliya Goncharova tried to spark Russia into life before it was too late to save the first set and Irina Fetisova followed up with a firm block, but Russia called a TO facing five set points at 24-19.
They saved two of them before Ajcharaporn closed it out 25-21 with a spike from the left to give Thailand a 1-0 lead.
Russia needed to improve significantly in the second set if they were to avoid an upset, and Kseniia Parubets led the way on attack and Irina Koroleva bolstered the block.
There were still far too many unforced errors in attack by the Russians, however, and this indecision crept into their all-round game as the Thais relished the occasion and led 16-12 at the second TTO.
The Russians were crumbling under the never-ending blur of "black magic" and the Thais pulled away to take the second set 25-17 on their third set point with a winner from Ajcharaporn.
In the third set, Russia led 8-5 at the first TTO as wing spiker Irina Voronkova caused problems for the Thai defence. Trailing 12-5, the Thais called their second TO of the set to try and arrest the slide.
Russia led 16-8 at the second TTO and when Fetisova easily blocked Ajcharaporn down the middle it summed up the change in the complexion of the game. Russia, now firing on all cylinders, took the third set 25-13.
The Thais looked refreshed in the fourth set, which promised to be a cracker as Russia, too, had found their groove and more consistency in attack.
Thailand, finding spaces down the sides to keep the points flowing, led 16-15 at the second TTO. Goncharova finished this critical set strongly and Russia pulled level 2-2 when they converted the first of three set points for 25-21.
The tiebreak was packed with dizzying rallies as the Thais recovered a series of seemingly lost causes to keep the ball alive and thrill the appreciative crowd who had defied typhoon warnings to cheer on the teams.
Russia turned around 8-7 ahead and won a challenge for 10-8 before stretching the lead to five points at 13-8 and closing the match 15-9.