Russia to play for yet another gold medal after semifinal win over Serbia
2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship - Men
Copenhagen, Denmark, September 28, 2013. The 2012 Olympic champions of Russia lived up to their reputation and edged Serbia 3:1 (25-19, 24-26, 25-23, and 25-15) to make it to the gold medal match of the 2013 CEV VELUX EuroVolley scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 6 pm. A large crowd got together at Parken stadium for the first semifinal where Russia was able to impose their rule right from the start of the game but had to stand the always great fighting spirit of a young Serbian side that fought their way back to win the second set after a very tight race. Serbia was close to do the same also in the third set but this time Russia was able to keep cool and once they had gone for the 2:1, the Olympic champions did never look back to dominate the scene in the fourth set (25-15) and get the right to play for gold on Sunday. With this result, Russia did also qualify for the final round of the FIVB Volleyball World Championships coming up next year in Poland.
Click here for a live gallery of the final weekend at Parken stadium
Russia and Serbia were the first sides who got the possibility to test the way it feels to play in a soccer stadium transformed into a Volleyball arena. Their semifinal game at Parken stadium was a remake of the game they had played two years ago in Vienna and where Serbia had eventually had the upper hand after a dramatic tie-break to advance to the final act of the 2011 EuroVolley. Though their team had failed to make the semis of the 2013 CEV VELUX EuroVolley, still many fans from Poland had found their way to Copenhagen and even a crew of cheerleaders had come from Europe’s Volleyball “Mecca” to create the right ambiance for the last stage of the competition. The Polish fans deserved a loud applause to their countryman Piotr Dudek, second referee of the game, while groups of Serbian and Russian supporters had also helped fill up the stands of Parken stadium.
Nikolay Apalikov immediately set the tone of the match for Russia with an ace but Serbian middle blocker Srecko Lisinac responded only a few moments later to restore the balance. Two Russian blocks moved the score up to 3:1 for the 2012 Olympic champions who were still missing – as it was always the case this past summer – superstar Maxim Mikhaylov on their starting six. Serbia was still struggling to find their way into the game as Russia called for the first technical time-out by the score of 8:4 with the 2011 European champions having quite some difficulty in reception. This break did not help much as Apalikov blocked the next Serbian attack (9:4) before the guys around head coach Igor Kolakovic finally fought their way back to score three in a row (9:7). Though they had won gold two years ago Serbia had since undergone many changes with young players (such as setter Nikola Jovovic, opposite Aleksandar Atanasijevic, and Lisinac) included on the starting six for their first major Championship, so it was not that easy to stand the pressure brought by the Olympic champions from Russia who still had a margin of four points by the second technical time-out (16:12). Even though Serbia tried their best to keep the pace of the Russian giant, still the winners of this year’s World League could cruise to the provisional and well-deserved 1:0 (25-19) on a serving error by Lisinac.
After making the difference in the first set with their blocks (5) and good serving (3 aces), Russia showed that same momentum also in the early phases of the second set (2:0, 5:3) but Serbia finally moved to the front for the first time since the start of the game by sweeping three points in a row (6:5). The teams exchanged the lead back and forth for a while before a Russian triple block – including giant Dmitriy Muserskiy – and a great defense action by setter Sergey Grankin finalized by wing-spiker Evgeny Sivozhelez restored Russia’s supremacy in the game (12:9). A time-out asked by Igor Kolakovic was followed by an ace killed by Apalikov and one of the most experienced players on the Serbian side of the net, Nikola Kovacevic, was ultimately replaced by Marko Ivovic in an effort to catch up with the terrific pace imposed by the Russian machine. The Serbian fans in the stands tried to cheer as loudly as possible on their heroes but Russia’s perfect game was too difficult to stand, with the Olympic champions widening the gap up to four points at the second technical time-out (16:12) upon winning the first of their “challenges” made possible by using the video verification system implemented here in Copenhagen. However, it was still too early to say the final world for some Russian mistakes helped Serbia cut the deficit to only one point (19:18). Nikolay Pavlov was the one who made the difference for the Russian side down the final stretch (23:20) but an ace by Atanasijevic made it 23:22 to set up a very exciting final rush. After a break asked by Russia mentor Andrey Voronkov, Atanasijevic shook the Russian defense with another terrific serve to go for the 23 all. He nevertheless sent the next one into the net but Sivozhelez served long to miss on an opportunity for the 2:0. A double block on Pavlov saw Serbia claim set point and Voronkov go into his second time-out in only a few moments. Only a few moments later a fault by Muserskiy helped Serbia level the count to completely re-open the fate of the game (26-24).
Though visibly unhappy with the outcome of the second set, Russia showed good composure in the opening of the third (5:3, 7:5) before their opponents evened the score at 7 all and once more at 8. Serbia had evidently improved on their consistency and quality since the start of the game but Russia was not keen to leave the door open to another comeback for they knew very well that once they start building on their fighting spirit, the Serbian guys become almost unstoppable. The 2012 Olympic champions got back control of the game (16:10) very much helped also by the mistakes of their opponents. Dmitriy Muserskiy was literally towering above the net while Mikhaylov and team captain Sergey Makarov had joined the game as Pavlov and Grankin were taking a short rest. However, after Serbia had scored four in a row to make it from 19:13 to 19:17, Russia’s starting setter and opposite were back in action and Pavlov promptly claimed the next rally to re-start the engine of the Russian express. Another breath-taking final rush was there as Serbia cut the gap to only one point (20:19) and the crowd got crazy by the time the scoreboard showed 21 all. With both teams completing their side-outs, the score was evened at 22 and 23 before Sivozhelez showed a glimpse of his class to get a first set point for Russia. Kolakovic stopped the game for a while but this time Pavlov finished it off with no mercy for the 25-23 and provisional 2:1.
Russia got off to a very good start in the fourth set (3:1) and was still the side setting the pace of the game at the first technical time-out (8:5); Pavlov - top scorer in the end with 19 points - was on a class of his own and Russia showed great tempo to make it 16:8 and assert their intention to claim the first spot in the final match of the 2013 CEV VELUX EuroVolley. Dmitriy Muserskiy aced for the 20:11 to shake the Serbian defense and by this moment only a miracle could have turned around the course of the game. This did not happen and Russia cashed their second match ball with a cross-court killed by Pavlov to seal the final 3:1 (25-15).
Marko Podrascanin of Serbia said: “Congratulations to Russia, they played a better game today and the key to their win was a good serve where they made fewer errors than they usually do. For us it is now important to forget this game, because tomorrow we have the chance of getting a medal in this Championship”.
Serbia mentor Igor Kolakovic: “Congratulations to Russia on the win and I wish them good luck in the final. Russia played very well in the first set, we played a good second set but we played worse in the fourth set and Russia played a good and consistent match. Tomorrow is a new day where we will go out to win the bronze medal match”.
Russia coach Andrey Voronkov said: “I think we played a good match today and our main concern was to deal with Atanasijevic and his serves and spikes. We were also concerned about our serve and reception. I am very glad that we played in this special stadium with a nice atmosphere and that we can decide ourselves if we are crowned champions. It was a good experience, thanks to the supporters and spectators and even though it was unusual to play at a football stadium it was a good match”.
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