Russia's attack was ruthless, but the Japanese did not stop defending
Tokyo, Japan, September 23, 2015 – Russia were victorious in their final match
of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Cup 2015 despite a mammoth effort from Japan as they downed the hosts in five breath-taking sets (27-29, 25-17, 21-25, 25-17, 15-13).
The home side put on a defensive clinic but some world class spiking from Russia proved the difference. Their block was also a huge offensive weapon as they scored 17 stuffs, the most of any team at the tournament so far.
Russia started slowly as Japan rushed to a 6-1 lead. They drew even on 12-all through a Dmitriy Muserskiy kill and began to pull away, with the Russian captain proving effective in attack at 21-18. An Evgeny Sivohelez swing brought up Russia’s first set point, but Japan bounced back to earn a set point of their own on 25-24. It switched back and forth two more times before Yuki Ishikawa hammered home a spike to help Japan take a sensational opening set.
Maxim Mikhaylov’s poor performance at the start of the second set forced Russia coach Vladimir Alekno to substitute him for Victor Poletaev as Japan went up 4-2. The change helped as Russia saw themselves starting to take control of the game, with a Poletaev block on Ishikawa taking them 16-13 up. A serve error brought up set point and Sergey Grankin killed the ball to make things even.
Japan were not going to go away quietly however and they burst to an 8-3 lead in the third, helped by two Ishikawa aces. The hosts continued to rise to the occasion, with Ishikawa carrying the team alongside captain Kunihiro Shimizu with some quick and clever attacks. Russia looked to be pulling back into the set at 20-19 but a wonderful Ishikawa ace made it 22-19. Japan salvaged one set point but a long Muserskiy serve put Japan 2-1 up.
The tables were turned at the start of the fourth, leading at the first technical timeout on 8-6. A solid Kentaro Takahashi serving run brought the home side to within one at 11-10 but some incredibly powerfully Russian kills brought them to 20-15. It was an ace serve from Vlasov took the match to fifth-set roulette.
Both countries were siding out consistently at the start of the final set. A block from Mikhaylov put Russia two up at 6-4. But Japan refused to back down, keeping the pressure on the Olympic champions. An ace from Shimizu saw Japan draw level at 13-all as the tension reached boiling point. But an ace from Sivozhelez saw Russia edge a sensational game.