Sofia, Bulgaria, May 24, 2014. The national team of Greece managed to gain its first victory in Pool D of second-round qualifications for the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Women. In their last match of Tournament 1 in Sofia the Greeks outplayed Portugal by 3:1 (25-17, 21-25, 25-15, 25-19). In the first clash between Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, considered as the pre-favorites in the pool, the Azeris gave the home team its first loss in the competition defeating it by 3:2 (17-25, 25-22, 19-25, 25-20, 15-8). This way, Bulgaria is only a point clear on top of the standings before the second tournament in Azerbaijan next week.
Greece vs. Portugal 3:1 (25-17, 21-25, 25-15, 25-19)
After a slightly better start for Portugal, Greece pushed its way into a 25-17 win in the first set by showing better performance in both blocking and attacking. The Portuguese stepped up their blocking efforts in the second set. Combined with improved spiking, it helped the team take control on the court and, despite the Greeks’ climbing back up and maintaining the level through 20-20, to tie the score after 25-21. The team from southwestern Europe stayed competitive through 10-10 in the third set, but then could not cope with Greece’s serves, which contributed 5 aces towards the final 25-15. The squad from the Balkans started the fourth set with a 3-0 lead and never looked back. Providing more solid performance on all elements of the game, the Greeks maintained their lead through the end for 25-19 in the set and 3:1 in the match.
Aikaterina Giota made 16 points for Greece to become the top scorer of the match, followed by teammates Aliki Konstantinidou with 15 and Eleni Kiosi with 14. Portugal’s most prolific player was Beatriz Santos with 10 points.
Fernando Luis Sousa, head coach of Portugal: “If you are a ‘prima donna’, this game told you to train harder, to work more and to be smarter.”
Ioannis Kalmazidis, head coach of Greece: “It was a success for us, we were better in all skills - in attack, in reception, in serving, in blocking... I feel satisfied. But we will continue to train more in offense.”
Azerbaijan vs. Bulgaria 3:2 (17-25, 25-22, 19-25, 25-20, 15-8)
In the first set Bulgaria put more precision into its game and played much better in defense to win it by 25-17. Azerbaijan retaliated with greatly improved blocking and better spiking in set two to claim it by 25-22. In the following set the Azeris committed far too many unforced errors and did not give the home heroines any other choice, but to win. The Lionesses closed the set at 25-19 to take the lead in the match again. Azerbaijan was well in control of the next two sets. The team from the southeastern tip of Europe outplayed Bulgaria on all counts and after 25-20 and 15-8 celebrated victorious.
Piling up 23 and 22 points, respectively, Polina Rahimova and Natalya Mammadova became the best scorers of the match. Opposite Emiliya Nikolova was Bulgaria’s best scorer with 16 points.
Vladimir Kuzyutkin, head coach of Bulgaria: “It is difficult to talk after that game. I will never tell a bad word about my girls. We played at the maximum we are capable of right now. And Azerbaijan is a very good team.”
Faig Garayev, head coach of Azerbaijan: “We played very well and this win is a big success for us. The girls did what I wanted from them and that is why we won.”
Click here for more details on the 2nd Round of qualifications, including match statistics and photos.