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21/09/2013 19:00
Serbia fights back from two sets down to stay alive in the tournament, Finland cashes second victory to keep first place
2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship - Men

Herning, Denmark, September 21, 2013. On Saturday a dramatic game opened the program of the second day in Pool C; in the end Serbia got back on track after losing their first game to Slovenia edging the Netherlands in five sets (19-25, 18-25, 25-15, 25-17, and 15-12) packed with ups and downs on both sides of the net. The Netherlands owned sets 1 and 2 but Serbia pulled together to win 3-2 and their first two points in the tournament while the Netherlands got their first point. Later in the evening, Finland showed another great performance to edge Slovenia 3:1 (25-27, 25-23, 25-22, and 25-21) and take another three points thereby securing a spot in the next phase waiting for the last round of play on Sunday where the “Suomis” will play Serbia to determine the final standing in the group.

Serbia made a great comeback from 0-2 down to snatch the win and two points while the Netherlands are also still alive in the group with one point. Serbia started uninspired and after a lot of service errors from both sides, the Netherlands started to get a hold of their game and went from 12-13 to 15-13 and never looked back winning the first set 25-19. The second set was also with the Netherlands in charge. Serbia’s opposite Aleksandar Atanasijevic was serving poorly but spiked as if his life depended on it. The Netherlands kept their cool and earned points on Serbia – the Dutch took the second set 25-18 and a great 2-0 advantage.
Would the defending European champions from Serbia really be about to crash out in the prelims? It looked like it, but in the third set, with their back against the wall, the Serbs finally rose to the occasion. In the beginning of the third set the Dutch seemed to want it more and were more aggressive. They had success with short lifts and hard spikes at the net and followed up with a great block for a 4:2 lead. Again it was up to opposite Aleksandar Atanasijevic to keep Serbia in the game with hard and precise spikes and he ended up as the top scorer with 23 points in this game. Serbia was now alive and kicking, taking the third set 25-15. The Netherlands were flat footed and Serbia high flying. Looking completely opposite to the first two sets Serbia charged ahead and the Serbs were all over the place picking up their game and believing in the points, winning the fourth set 25-17. The Serbian train was in full motion and took control of the final set. They had a match ball at 14-12 and won the point - they thought - as the first referee wanted the point re-played. Serbia took the next rally and also the match, thereby earning their two first points in the competition.
Opposite Aleksandar Atanasijevic - best scorer in the end with 23 points - said: “Yesterday we played really bad and felt a big pressure today because we knew we had to play good to beat the Netherlands. The first two sets were the worst two sets in our 5 months build up to the Championships but when Ivovic came to the court everything changed. We started to fight for every ball and this is the key to how we should play the next match and to defend our title from two years ago. The beast is most dangerous when it’s close to dying and we were like this today. Now we re-start the European Championship and we will fight for every ball”.
Dutch mentor Edwin Benne: “It’s like we played two different matches in one match, winning 2-0 and losing 3-0. Serbia were very insecure in the first sets searching for their level and we controlled the match. We could not keep our level and they turned it around with some substitutions. We were not consistent enough, it wasn’t bad but in the end it was not good enough. We made too many mistakes but we are motivated and we will be ready to play well tomorrow and I hope it is enough to beat Slovenia”.  

Finland’s opposite Urpo Sivula registered 23 points and led his team to a 3-1 victory (25-27, 25-23, 25-22, and 25-21) over Slovenia to see his side on top of the charts in Pool C with maximum six points after two rounds of play. Finland showed the right attitude to have a great European Championships in Denmark. They look confident and play very good Volleyball both offensively and defensively. Their blocking game is outstanding and captain wing-spiker Antti Siltala and opposite Sivula had strong performances again against Slovenia with 16 and 23 points respectively.
The match was very close all through the first set, but towards the end Slovenia had a slight edge and rallied to a first set win, 27-25. The second set was also very tight with no team taking a strong lead. Instead the 1,250 spectators, mainly Finns, created an intense atmosphere yelling and singing for their heroes. Finland got a 19-17 lead off via – yet again – great block and from there the ball was all over the court in breath-taking, hard-hitting duels seeing Finland come out on top, 25-23. Again in the third set, the two teams were inseparable points wise. Finland had three points in a row for a 10-8 lead, which caused a Slovenian time-out from head coach Slabe. Finland took their fourth straight point with an ace from captain Siltala but then Slovenia came rushing back to take the next three and it seemed this was a matter of who wanted it most and which team would keep their cool. Finland took a 4-point lead late in the set and cruised it home 25-22 for a commanding 2-1 lead. Again in the fourth set Finland put together a well-orchestrated blocking show leaving the Slovenian offense helpless and trailing 8-11. Finland cracked open a 13-9 lead and they had a smooth-running attack machine as a spike nailed to the floor by captain Siltala called for a 14-10 lead. Slovenia clawed back a little but Finland seemed in control and closed the match 25-21 for a perfect score of six points after two matches. Slovenia is second with 3, while Serbia has 2 and the Netherlands 1 which makes it possible for Slovenia, Serbia and the Netherlands to still go through to the next phase.
Urpo Sivula, top scorer from Finland with 23 points, said: “We played good but again we led almost all sets by four points and then the opponent came back, so we need to make this better. If we’re playing good we must keep going until the end and not let the opponent back again. We feel great on the court with a good mix of experienced players and young, eager players. We must try to win against Serbia tomorrow and we are satisfied when we have 9 points. We have been working a lot with blocking and defence and we are getting into the rhythm we lacked in the World League and we get many points on defence. I’m still missing easy plays and I need to kill more balls”.
Slovenian captain, Tine Urnaut, had 17 points, the most for his team: “Of course we are disappointed but I would like to congratulate Finland on their match, they played a really good match, more patient than us and had a really good reception and they were better in the end. We know Holland is a good opponent and they played a good match today and we will prepare in the best way. We will go out to win to go to the next round but it will be a tough match. Holland is for sure not giving up, they will play the maximum and so will we. I think our serving is one of our strong points. Today it didn’t go that well because Finland was receiving very good so that is one thing to improve to make more serve pressure so as to play easier in blocking and defence”.

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