Thailand clinch men's title to complete volleyball clean sweep
Thailand's men's team down Vietnam and join their women to complete a clean sweep in volleyball
Thailand cemented their dominance in South-east Asian volleyball as the men's team beat Vietnam yesterday to complete the double.
They downed Vietnam 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-23) in front of a sell-out crowd at the OCBC Arena Hall 2, just a day after their female counterparts bagged their 10th consecutive gold medal at the SEA Games.
A delighted Thailand head coach Monchai Supajirakul said: "I'm very happy with the team, everybody was good and fought well.
"Thailand have a high-powered game when we are attacking, so the other teams cannot defend so well against us."
But it wasn't a stroll in the park for the Thais.
The Vietnamese, determined to prevent their opponents from scoring their third consecutive SEA Games gold, put up a tough fight.
Yet, the Thais were quicker off the blocks, using their experience and aggressive front-line to take the first set 25-20.
But Vietnam were not overawed, celebrating every point won with small victory laps in their own half of the court to motivate themselves.
They began the second set the better of the two teams, and even led 8-6.
But Thailand, led by Jirayu Raksakaew and Kissada Nilsawai, who stand at 1.94m and 2.02m respectively, proved too tough to overcome.
Coupled with several misplaced serves and poor communication within their own ranks, Vietnam's lead soon vanished.
When another mistake handed the second set to Thailand 25-19, the Thai fans in the stands could be heard yelling, "Thank you!" to the Vietnam team.
The third set proved to be a much closer contest, with Vietnam saving two match-points.
Alas, it was in vain, as the Thais claimed the final set 25-23 to send their fans into a frenzy.
Vietnam, though, can have few excuses.
Captain Nguyen Huu Ha said: "We tried our best, but the Thai team are just too strong for us.
"We are changing some of our players and letting the younger ones have a go in many of the positions.
"For the new players, they just need more experience to get used to the big occasions like this, and they will get better.
"I'm pleased with their performance and we are very happy with the silver."
The Thai men were simply determined not to play second fiddle to the women's side.
Thailand captain Kittikun Sri-utthawong said that they had specifically targeted the opponents' weak spots.
He said: "We wanted to win 3-0 and we knew we could if we played our best.
"Vietnam had some skills and actions that were wrong, so we used those weaknesses to win.
"After we saw the women's team win, and how well they played, we wanted to win even more.
"Not only us and Vietnam are strong, Indonesia and Myanmar are good too but this time, my team are No. 1."