Bulgaria, Romania, Belarus & Portugal off to flying start in #EuroVolleyU19M
2017 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship - Men
Luxembourg, January 12, 2017. Portugal, Romania, Belarus and Bulgaria started their journey in the second round of qualifications to the 2017 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship – Men in the best way as they claimed their respective opening matches in Ploiesti and Sofia. Romania fought for five sets before edging Belgium, as hosts Bulgaria were able to stand the challenge brought by Denmark to delight the home fans in Sofia with a 3-1 victory. The eventual winners of the eight second-round qualifiers plus the two second-placed teams with the best score will move on to the Finals scheduled for late April in Györ (Hungary) and Puchov (Slovakia).
Pool E in Ploiesti (ROU)
Iceland vs. Portugal 0-3 (11-25, 16-25, 14-25)
Portugal swept Iceland aside in three sets to start their campaign in Pool E in emphatic style. Andre Marques and Atli Fannar Petursson top scored in the match with 15 and 7 points for Portugal and Iceland, respectively. Portugal easily controlled the match in the opening set, leading 8-2 and 16-5 along the way to a landslide 25-11 win. The story of the match did not change in the second set where Portugal’s lead just grew bigger and bigger and they ended up doubling their lead in the game (25-16). Iceland claimed an early lead in set three but Portugal came back strong and had a five-point advantage at the second technical time-out (16-11). Looking determined to finish the match in three sets, Portugal eventually achieved their goal as they did so at 25-14.
Romania vs. Belgium 3-2 (18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 21-25, 15-13)
Romania cruised to a 3-2 victory over Belgium in the second match of the day in Ploiesti. Berre Peters of Belgium top scored with 24 points as Ovidiu Darlaczi scored 21 times for the home side. Belgium started the match quite aggressively, leading 8-5 and were able to hold onto their advantage through to the end (25-18). Romania responded in the same way when taking to the court in the second set (8-4) and repeated their opponent’s performance from the previous set, thus restoring the balance in the match (25-22). Belgium got back on track in set three (8-5) and even though Romania fought back, the visitors still had a five-point advantage at the second technical time-out. Romania, however, regrouped and fought their way back to stamp a 25-23 win which meant a 2-1 lead in the match. Belgium responded by stepping up their efforts in the fourth set and they were rewarded with a 25-21 win after keeping a safe margin of four to five points for most of the time. To cap it off, the fans in attendance enjoyed a very close tie-break where Romania emerged victorious to celebrate a valuable 3-2 victory.
Pool G in Sofia (BUL)
Belarus vs. Georgia 3-0 (25-13, 25-14, 25-21)
Belarus started their campaign at Hristo Botev sports hall in Sofia by rallying to a comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-13, 25-14, 25-21) over Georgia. The first set was an easy ride for Belarus and the same trend continued in the second. Daviti Chachua tried to inspire the Georgian team by scoring four points but the biggest problem for the rookies from the Caucasus region was the high number of mistakes they made. The score remained close in the early stages of the third set (8-7); Georgia continued to play with much motivation and courage before Belarus emerged victorious at 25-21.
“We needed some time to adjust since the conditions, climate and everything here is different than in Georgia,” said head coach Soso Lobzhanidze. “This made it hard for us in the early stages of the match where we made a lot of mistakes. We started to play better in the third and I hope this positive trend will continue in our next two matches.”
“The first match is always difficult, it’s a new hall, different conditions, but we managed to win. We did what our coach expected from us and achieved a really important victory,” said Kanstantsin Tsiushkevich, captain of Belarus. “We did some good things in this match, trying to stick to our game plan and we are satisfied to start the tournament with a 3-0 victory,” said Belarus libero Kiryl Yunitski.
Denmark vs. Bulgaria 1-3 (25-18, 28-30, 13-25, 20-25)
Denmark caught a fabulous start to the match with their setter Mads Kyed Jensen orchestrating their game with a nice variety of options (20-15). As for the hosts, their defence looked shaky and they could not finish many of their counterattacks, so Denmark won the first set by 25-18 with the final score sealed by a block from Tobias Hougs Kjær, one of six points he scored in the period. The score remained close for most of the second set before Bulgaria edged ahead at 24-22. The young ‘Lions’ made two mistakes in a row to let Denmark close in at 24-all; Bulgaria team captain Konstantin Nechev stole the show towards the end of the set and with an ace and attack from the middle he contributed to the final 30-28. After that, Bulgaria easily controlled the game in se 3 (16-10) and with the help of Nechev and Ivan Pankov, the hosts rallied to a comprehensive 25-13 win. The young ‘Lions’ continued from what they left in set 4, leading by as many as eight points at 18-10 before finishing it all off at 25-20.
“It’s normal you feel the pressure at the beginning of a tournament like this one,” Bulgaria libero Simeon Topuzliev said. “We started nervously but after that we managed to show our skills and won the match. We watched one game played by Belarus against Russia and I believe that they are a very good team. I hope we can start in the best way from the beginning and beat them.”
Thomas Skifter Bertelsen, coach of Denmark: “Congratulations to Bulgaria, they are a strong team. We won the first set and the second was very close. We had our chances and a set point too, but Bulgaria were better in the end. Maybe in the third and fourth sets we suffered a bit the setback and disappointment. On the other hand, after the second set Bulgaria started to play with a lot of confidence and they pushed us in all aspects of the game. However, every point is important in this qualification tournament and I hope that the set we took today will turn into some kind of plus and can help us make it to the Final Round.”
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