Thailand saw off Philippines in thrilling three-setter and hosts Indonesia swept Vietnam to remain unbeaten and next clash for the eventual First Leg title in the 2023 Southeast Asian Men’s Volleyball League (SEA V.League) at Padepokan Voli Jenderal Polisi Kunarto Gymnasium in Jakarta on Saturday.
World No.58 and AVC Challenge Cup winners Thailand, fresh from sensational 3-0 win against Vietnam the previous day, pulled off a hard-fought 25-22, 25-20, 25-20 win against Philippines for two wins in a row in the three-day tournament on Saturday.
Against world No.59 Philippines, fifth place at this year’s 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia, Thailand fielded the similar lineup which outplayed Vietnam in straight sets in the curtain-raiser the previous day. They included promising Anurak Phanram, who landed the MVP Award at the AVC Challenge Cup in Chinese Taipei to his name, hard-hitting Anut Promchan and Kissada Nilsawai, who respectively won the Best Outside Spiker and the Best Middle Blocker in Chinese Taipei. Philippines were also strong with powerful Steven Charles Rotter and Joshua Umandal at the helm.
Both teams started well in a see-saw first set. As Thailand were leading narrowly 21-20, Napadet Bhinijdee carried out two successive ace serves to help the team extend the lead to 23-20. The Thais allowed the Filipinos two more points before a fast attack from Kissada Nilsawai went without responding to clinch the thrilling first set 25-22.
Holding a 1-0 advantage, Thailand maintained their poise and played consistently and confidently in the next two sets to win 25-20, 25-20.
Thailand will next go up against hosts Indonesia, current world No.68 and defending successive three-time Southeast Asian Games champions in the Sunday’s match, a final clash of the two unbeaten teams in Jakarta to determine the eventual First Leg winners.
Indonesia, strengthened by Farhan Halim and Dimas Saputra, both of them were instrumental in helping lift the 3-0 victory against Philippines in their first match earlier, played exceptionally well in front of a large number of home fans inside the competition venue.
Against Vietnam, the team they had beaten in straight sets in the semifinals of the Cambodia-hosted SEA Games early this year, the Indonesians took the first two sets 25-20, 25-19, but found a tough going in the third set when the Philippines counter-attacked well to level it at 15-15.
With Farhan on fire, the host side kept the upper hand through…