Iran makes it back to back, beats Netherlands in 5 sets

Iran celebrates a point against the Netherlands during a VNL Week 3 game in Manila.

Iran celebrates a point against the Netherlands during a VNL 2024 Week 3 game in Manila. –MARLO CUETO/

MANILA, Philippines — Inspired by its breakthrough win, Iran overcame another thrilling five-setter and Nimir Abdel-Aziz’s 37-point explosion for a 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 20-25, 15-10 win over the Netherlands in the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) Week 3 on Thursday at Mall of Asia Arena.

Amin Esmaeilnezhad and Poriya Hossein powered the Iranians for their second straight victory to improve to a 2-8 record following their 26-28, 25-23, 25-18, 26-28, 15-13 win over Team USA less than 24 hours ago.

Esmaeilnezhad poured in 29 points off 25 kills, three blocks, and an ace, while Hossein drilled 27 points including three blocks to deny Netherlands of a comeback in the fifth set.

VNL 2024 SCHEDULE: Week 3 Manila, Philippines leg

After missing the chance to close out, the Iranians were quick to get their act together in the fifth with a 10-5 spread after Hossein’s big block on Abdel-Aziz. The Dutch star, though, refused to give up and cut the deficit down to three, 13-10, before Esmaeilnezhad and Milad Ebadipour put on the finishing touches.

Ebadipour, who chipped in 13 points for Iran, said they are just enjoying the experience in Manila despite playing no-bearing games as they are already out of Final Eight contention.

“It was great. The atmosphere, we’re really so excited to play in one of the best countries for volleyball, for the fans. It was a great experience for us,” said the Iran skipper. “I hope, all season, all year, they follow volleyball. Like this year, and especially next year it’s gonna be the World Championships, the most [important] tournament after the Olympic Games. I’m pretty sure that the [arena] will be full, full of fans and you know, it’s making us feel really good to play here.”

READ: VNL 2024: Iran upsets powerhouse USA for first win

Iran battles sixth-seed team France (6-3) at 11 a.m. on Friday. Ebadipour said they will continue to make the most of the experience and play with nothing to lose.

“We lost eight games, so, nothing bad can happen to our team anymore, so we gave everything, the best. But we look forward and our young generation, I think they are starting to play [well], they’re starting to push and change our mentality,” Ebadipour said.

“They are young but they are professional players and most of them, they play in the best leagues in the world in Italy, in Poland, in Russia. So, they have all this experience. We all help each other the young guys, the experienced guys. It’s making a good team, and that’s the most important.”

The Netherlands remained in the 13th place with a 3-7 record after another offensive masterpiece by Abdel-Aziz, who fired 27 attacks, nine aces, and a block. Maarten Van Garderen backstopped him with 17 points. 

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Abdel-Aziz, who scored 38 points two days ago, hopes to finally get a win in Manila against Japan on Friday at 7 p.m.