Spain and Slovakia score comfortable wins to open European League
2012 CEV Volleyball European League - Men
Katerini, Greece, May 24, 2012. Spain and Slovakia opened their campaign in Pool A of the 2012 CEV Volleyball European League by downing Greece and Israel respectively in straight sets for the first of three day of actions in Katerini.
The hosts of Greece were edged in three sets (21-25, 20-25, and 19-25) by last year’s runner-ups of Spain with 800 enthusiastic fans in attendance at “New Indoor Sports Hall”. Spain dictated the tempo of the game with Greece being able to show a decent resistance only in the mid of the second and third set. Spain was paced by their captain and setter Guillermo Hernan while Iban Perez and Gustavo Delgado impressed with their spikes; as for Greece, the home side was evidently sidelined by many absences and injuries struggling in reception as well as in attack.
“We want to qualify for the final four and take the title” said Hernan after the match. “We thank the Greek fans for the great atmosphere they contributed tonight” he said. “It was not easy; we caught a good start but we knew that Greece playing at home would have been a tough opponent tonight, even though their group has undergone quite many changes” said head coach Fernando Munoz Benitez.
“We played one of the best teams in Europe” commented Greece’s opposite Christos Belos. “We play Israel tomorrow and this is an opponent within our reach and that we shall be able to defeat”. “I am satisfied with the effort of my players” concluded head coach Alekos Leonis. “We had only ten days to prepare for the start of this competition and have been going through many problems. Next is Israel, a team which we cannot compare with Spain”.
As they join this year’s CEV Volleyball European League with a group of young players while most of the guys who recently competed at the Olympic qualifier in Sofia have decided to enjoy a break or are struggling with injuries, still last year’s champions of Slovakia could easily down the rookie of the competition, Israel, in three straight sets (25-20, 25-22, and 29-27).
Israel initially set the pace of the game in the opening set (6:5) but afterwards the operations were fully controlled by Slovakia. The Israelis went up also in set 2 (14:9) but as Stefan Chrtiansky jr., i.e. the son of Slovakia’s head coach, joined the game, the players from Bratislava could flip the score around (18:15) and then go for the provisional 2:0. The third set was very hard-fought even though Slovakia opened the gap twice (19:14, 22:18) before Israel stormed back (23:22) anchored by Alexander Shafranovich. Some more rallies followed before Slovakia could finish it off with the score of 29-27 and celebrate a successful opening of its campaign in the European League.
“We have a very young group and we still have to learn to control the game after the 20-point mark” stated Israeli coach Zohar Bar Netzer after the game. “Slovakia is definitely stronger than us and so we have to play our best to be able to defeat such teams. Hopefully tomorrow we will kill Greece” he joked with a bright smile.
“I am very satisfied that this group that was playing its first international match together won that clearly” added Slovakia’s head coach Stefan Chrtiansky. “Anyway, Spain remains the strongest opponent in this Pool”. Best players were Milan Bencz and Stefan Chrtiansky for Slovakia while Alexander Shafranovich paced Israel with 13 points.
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