Azeri women down Turkey to strike gold

18 May 2017
Azerbaijan's Kseniya Poznyak (2) and Odina Bayramova (5) jump to block the ball during the volleyball final match Azerbaijan vs Turkey
Azerbaijan's team warms up prior the volleyball final match Azerbaijan vs Turkey
Azerbaijan's Krystsina Yagubova (14) and Kseniya Poznyak (2) compete during the volleyball final match Azerbaijan vs Turkey

Azerbaijan struck gold in the women's volleyball tournament after overcoming Turkey in a high-octane final at Baku's Crystal Hall on Thursday. The showpiece between the two strongest nations at the Islamic Solidarity Games was expected to be a thriller, and certainly didn't disappoint as the hosts put in a superb performance to win 3-1.

Azerbaijan had already beaten Turkey 3-2 in the group stages, and hit the ground running as they dominated the first set (25-12).

Turkey, though, had produced some wonderful volleyball to dismiss Kyrgyzstan 3-0 in the semi-finals, and there were shades of that performance as they hit back immediately.

To their credit, Azerbaijan managed to save four set points at the business end of the second, but Turkey still saw it out (25-23) to level up the match. 

Azerbaijan then controlled the third to restore their lead (25-20) and leave themselves just one set shy of victory.

The fourth was nip-and-tuck at the outset, but Azerbaijan got their noses in front before surging into a five-point lead (20-15).

Turkey pulled it back to within two (20-18), but Azerbaijan won one of the points of the night to swing the momentum back in their favour, before bringing up six match points (24-18).

Ayshan Abdulazimova served the first into the net, before Polina Rahimova's smash went wide and another attempt was blocked at the net (24-21).

Rahimova got the job done for the hosts, though, as her smash was deflected out by Turkey and Crystal Hall could finally erupt with delight (25-21).

It was Azerbaijan's 59th gold of the Games, which pulled them to within a single gold of Turkey at the top of the overall medal table.

The Turks had to settle for silver while Kyrgyzstan thrashed Tajikistan 3-0 to secure the bronze, but this one was all about Azerbaijan.

And as the 14 members of their formidable team stepped onto the podium bearing the familiar flowery motif of the Solidarity Games, the celebrations could really begin.

©AFP Services

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