Tehran, Iran, June 24, 2018 - Stellar performances from Milad Ebadipour and Morteza Sharifi inspired Iran past a gallant Germany in a FIVB Volleyball Nations League thriller on Sunday.
With both teams out of finals contention, Iran edged Germany in a high-calibre affair 3-2 (25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 15-11) to complete a sweep of their home stand and finish tenth on the VNL standings with an overall record of 7-8 - just behind Germany.
Ebadipour (23 points) and Sharifi (22 points) were brilliant throughout and were supported by talented teenager Saber Kazemi (15 points), while Simon Hirsch (18 points) and Christian Fromm (18 points) were standouts for Germany.
It was a titanic affair played with an abundance of spirit with Iran making the crucial plays in the deciding set and the result denied Germany a clean sweep of phase five.
Inspired by a vocal home crowd, Iran started furiously scoring four of the first five points to ensure bedlam inside Azadi Sports Complex.
A misfiring Germany appeared to be wilting amid the swirl of anticipation with the heavy lifting being done by Fromm and Hirsch as their teammates struggled to get into the contest. An organised Iran were conjuring precise spikes allowing the dynamic Kazemi to take full advantage through several firecrackers to spark local fans out of their seats.
Iran deservedly claimed a dominant 27-minute first set through an overzealous Hirsch attempted spike to continue their home dominance.
Shrugging off a lacklustre opening, Germany started the second set sharper with Moritz Reichert overcoming a slow start to make an impact but he was countered by the sustained brilliance of Sharifi.
It was a see-sawing battle mid-set with neither team able to string together points due to an inability to hold serve but the towering Hirsch rediscovered his radar to help Germany reclaim the lead and, momentarily, silence the eager crowd. The play peaked during the pulsating stretch at the backend highlighted by an astounding kick save from Ebadipour to instigate an Iranian point but Germany's frontline were doing well thwarting the attacks.
At 22-21, in a crucial juncture, Iran were ruled to have touched the net in a tight call and Germany then managed to hold their nerve through Hirsch, who fittingly hammered home a spike to level the match.
Ensuring their crowd regained its voice, Iran regrouped and rediscovered the form from the first set with a blistering start to open the third as they skipped out to an 8-3 buffer. A rattled Germany were making uncharacteristic errors and Iran ruthlessly capitalised with a high-voltage game marked by the aerial mastery from Kazemi, who spectacularly leapt from beyond the 3-metre line to thunder home spikes.
Fromm, who had been quiet since his hot start, attempted to lead a German revival but Iran had all the answers to continue holding sway much to the delight of their passionate supporters. A desperate Germany clawed within striking distance on several occasions deep in the set but Iran snuffed out the challenge when Masoud Gholami thundered a spike to give Iran a stranglehold of the contest.
With the match slipping away, Germany ensured they wouldn't roll over with Tobias Krick stepping up with timely spikes answered by the continual brilliance of Kazemi.
Hirsch appeared to be edging Germany to a fifth-set and a huge missed spike at 18 apiece by Ali Shafiei was the turning point as the visitors held on to force a deciding set.
Amid a tense atmosphere, the finale was marked by energetic play, determined hustle and scintillating shot-making with both teams putting it all on the line. Ebadipour showcased exquisite touch to menace at the net juxtaposed by the high-flying Kazemi as Iran stormed to an 8-5 lead.
Fuelled by their ardent fans, Iran withstood a last-gasp gusty German run to ensure they continued their love affair of playing at home.