San Juan, Argentina, June 1, 2018 - Milad Ebadipour’s stunning attacking display helped Iran secure a nail-biting 3-2 victory (21-25, 25-22, 25-22, 24-26, 15-9) over Argentina in the Volleyball Nations League on Friday.
Ebadipour was the focus of his team’s offense and his consistent power proved crucial as host Argentina put up a stirring fight but were unable to capitalize on home court advantage and narrowly failed to grab their first VNL win.
The combination of Ebadipour (16 attacking points) and Amir Ghafour, who collected 10 winners, was critical as Iran piled on the pressure in the decisive fifth set to show nerves of steel once more. Head coach Igor Kolakovic’s team have now won their last six five-setters and were grateful for this, their second triumph of the tournament.
Argentina’s firepower came from the skillful strikes of Facundo Conte, who was instrumental in putting his side off to a strong start, then later spearheading a spirited fightback to pull things level. Ultimately, however, the home squad was left to rue a high error count that saw them rack up 40 mistakes over the course of the contest.
When the San Juan crowd shared their team’s disappointment at the eventual outcome, they were quick to pay tribute to Argentina’s effort, showering the players with a rousing standing ovation at the end of the game.
If not for a few key moments, things might have turned out differently. Argentina came out full of positive intent and rode the fine play of Cristian Poglajen to a first set victory, in which Poglajen got on the board five times before Agustin Loser clinched the frame with an imposing block on set point.
Iran had no intention of going away quietly and with Kolakevic demanding improvement, tightened up their game in impressive fashion. An inspired run of serving from Ebadipour was key in both opening up a late advantage and quieting the crowd, giving the visitors a lead they would not surrender.
Supported ably by the persistent efforts of Mojtaba Mirzajanpour and Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi, Ebadipour continued his streak of form in the third. After Italy started strongly and moved ahead through Conte and Bruno Lima’s attacking prowess, Iran chipped away at the deficit and saved their best play for the end. Two huge spikes from Ghafour secured set point, and Ebadipour blow to win the set was even more emphatic.
Argentina was not finished yet, and when Iran captain Saeid Marouf became frustrated as a couple of disputed decisions went the other way, the hosts opened up a five-point gap. Iran ground away and eventually came close to finishing the clash in four sets, before Sebastian Sole and Martin Ramos held firm when it mattered.
But Iran are the masters of five-set play and show exactly why in the decider. With relentless consistency and flawless sideouts, Iran got to the change of ends at 8-6 and never looked back from there. Appropriately, Ebadipour and Ghafour were the biggest contributors once more, before Farhad Salafzoon made the most of an Argentina error to seal the win.
Argentina’s schedule does not get any easier with in-form Canada next up, while Iran faces Italy on Saturday.