Serbia overcomes tough Slovenia and waits for the last Pool I match tonight
2012 Olympic Games - European Qualification
Sofia, Bulgaria, May 11, 2012. Serbia did what was necessary to stay in contention for the second semifinal spot available from Pool I at the 2012 Olympic Games - European Qualification for men in Bulgaria. The team of head coach Igor Kolakovic took the three points from its last match in the pool – 3:1 (22-25, 25-18, 27-25, 25-15) against a tough Slovenian team. However, in order to qualify for tomorrow’s semis, the Blues have to rely on Bulgaria to win at least two sets against Spain later tonight.
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Slovenia had nothing to lose in this game and entered the match without any psychological burden of a must-win situation. At the same time, the Serbs were making way too many mistakes and the players of coach Veselin Vukovic took advantage of that to take control of the first set. Although Serbia was able to take a 3-point lead at times, the Slovenes persevered at the end and with great efforts in serving and blocking won the set by 25-21.
Serbia responded with more efficient attacks in the second set, especially by Aleksandar Atanasijevic, to take a small advantage in the score and maintain it through 20-18. Then Atanasijevic took the chance to display his powerful serving too as he helped his team score 6 points in a row for a convincing ending of the set.
With a good job done by the Slovenian reception and setter Dejan Vincic, the team’s offense was nicely spread and way more prolific in the third set. Slovenia gradually built up a 5-point lead and was able to maintain it through 21-16. After 22-18, however, Serbia evened things out with 4 consecutive points as substitute Mihajlo Mitic took position behind the serving line and was able to ace twice. The Serbian block also helped in turning the score around to 27-25 with Marko Podrascanin putting the ball down for the last point of the set.
This came as a psychological blow to the Slovenes whose spirit completely dropped down in the fourth set and they were not able to stay competitive against the reigning European champions. Serbia further stepped up its block and with Dragan Stankovic as the top gun in offense too was able to demolish the opponents by 25-15 and secure the precious three points.
Atanasijevic became the top scorer of the match with 19 points for Serbia with Stankovic chipping in with another 17. 17 was also the number of points on the tally of Slovenia’s most prolific player – Alen Pajenk, whose block alone was responsible for 5 of them.
“Serbia played a solid game. They were calmer and better in offense and blocking,” Tine Urnaut, captain of Slovenia, admitted. ”On the other hand, we had too many problems in scoring. It is very difficult for us to play without good attack and this was obvious through the whole tournament. We leave Sofia a little disappointed.” Bojan Janic, captain of Serbia, paid back the compliments: ”Our opponent made a very strong game today and we are happy that we managed to win. Now we will try to rest and sleep well, because tomorrow we will need to double the effort, if we want to play in the final.”
“I think Slovenia played very good volleyball in the first three sets, despite losing two of them,” the team’s head coach Veselin Vukovic agreed with the opponents’ captain. ”We had the real chance to leave this tournament with at least one victory. I have to admit, that there was a difference in quality between us and other teams, but we will continue our work and try to improve." Serbian counterpart Igor Kolakovic added: “I am happy that we won this important game. I think we played much better than yesterday. We showed character and finished the third set in the best way. After that it was easier to close the match without so much pressure.”