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21/06/2013 21:38
Tie-break brings fifth consecutive victory to Belgian lions
2013 CEV Volleyball European League - Men

Slagelse, Denmark, June 21, 2013. It took five sets but Belgium could eventually stretch their winning streak to five matches in a row in prelim Pool A of the 2013 CEV Volleyball European League – Men. Belgium could edge Austria (21-14, 19-21, 17-21, 21-14, and 17-15) at the end of a real drama to keep the top position in the standings of the group.
The first set was very close in the early phases before Belgium slowly but surely opened the gap (8:4, 12:5); their lead reached 8 points by 17:9 before Alexander Berger stood out for Austria from the serving area and reduced the gap to five (17:12). After a time-out asked by their head coach Dominique Baeyens, Belgium got back on track and could finish the opening set at 21-14. 
After another close start (5:5), Belgium – similarly to what had happened in the first set – got control of the operations leading by seven points at the technical time-out. However, Austria was able to fight back and did level the score at 16 all before moving to the front (18:17). Austria could cash the provisional 1:1 (21-19) by exploiting their first set ball.
“Things changed suddenly in the second set where we dissipated our lead and started making many mistakes in attack” says Belgian mentor Dominique Baeyens. “In the third set we looked very frustrated and this is also due to the fact that Austria played superb and showed great momentum. Their serve was excellent while we did not play our best Volleyball. However, we did not stop our fight and in the end what is important is that we came back and could extend our positive series”.
Austria had indeed started out very strong in the third set (4:1, 7:5) and got a margin of two by the technical time-out. Belgium was forced to ask for a time-out after Aleksandar Blagojevic – who registered 26 points in the end – had scored for the 16:12 but even though Belgium could reduce a bit the gap, still Austria was in full swing and could go for the 2:1 (21-17). 
Belgium fired back in set 4 (9:6) but Berger made it 11 all before Bram Van den Dries took his side by the hand (14:11); that seemed to put an end to Austria’s storm as Belgium moved ahead 16:12 and could bring it home at 21-14.  The tie-break did see a close start (6:6) before Belgium went up 8:6 as teams changed sides of the net. After another tie at 8, Simon Van de Voorde restored Belgium’s lead (10:8) but Austria could even the score once more at 12. Belgium got a first match ball at 14:13 but needed two more before cashing that hard-fought victory at 17-15.
“I am glad that we won but we should have closed the match earlier” Van den Dries says. “We had to fight hard for this win for Austria played really well. They served great and this made it tough for us. We showed nevertheless our strength in the key moments where we could turn things into our favor”.   

In the other match of the day Slovakia claimed their second victory of the competition by seeing off the hosts of Denmark 3:1 (21-14, 25-23, 19-21, and 21-12). Slovakia could survive to three set balls for Denmark in the second set before eventually cruising to that much needed victory to stay in contention for a spot in the final four. Slovakia did immediately set the tone of the game storming out to a 4:0 lead in the first set but Denmark fought back to level at 4. Slovakia moved up 11:7 right before the technical time-out and then could keep a good margin (15:10) to bring it home at 21-14 helped by some Danish mistakes. Slovakia’s head coach Stefan Chrtiansky called for his first time-out in the second set as his side was trailing 3:5 and Slovakia could flip the score around going up 9:7 and 12:9. With a series of good serves by their youngster Peter Trolle Bonnesen, Denmark did claw back for the 15 all and even went to the front at 18:16; the hosts had two set balls but did not cash any before Slovakia finished it off at 25-23 for the provisional 2:0. With Slovakia leading 7:3 in the third set, home coach Fred Sturm stopped the game and his guys responded well leveling the score at 8 all. Slovakia moved up 12:10 but Denmark was able to flip the charts around once more before the score was leveled at 16. A triple block by the Danes set the tone for the final rush with the home side up by two points (18:16) and though Slovakia made it 18 all, this time Denmark did not lose control of the game and wrapped it up at 21-19. After a close start, Slovakia got control of the operations in the fourth set (6:3, 9:4) and did gradually widen the gap after the technical time-out to finish the game at 21-12 for a 3:1 victory.
“This victory is extremely important for us as we are still in contention for the top positions in the Pool” Slovakia’s head coach Stefan Chrtiansky says. “After losing yesterday to Austria all of my players felt really down but with this victory we are back on track. Finally we could play our game and we are more relaxed as we take on Belgium tomorrow”.
“It feels good to win. The European League did not start as we had imagined so right now we are very happy with every point we can take home” added his son Stefan jr. “With the three points we got today we are still in contention for the top of the group and can chase Belgium and Austria. We struggled to find our best game but we got good feelings also for the upcoming matches”.    

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