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07/12/2017 10:56
Levski continue triumphal march in CEV Challenge Cup
2018 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup - Men

Sofia, Bulgaria, December 7, 2017. Levski SOFIA made a step towards reaching the 8th Finals of the 2018 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup – Men. The team from Bulgaria’s capital claimed a 3-1 home victory (22-25, 25-15, 25-16, 25-18) against Orion DOETINCHEM of the Netherlands in front of 550 fans in Sofia. The “Blues’ need now to take two sets to progress to the next round of the competition but it won’t be an easy task. The rematch is due to take place on December 20 in the Netherlands.

Levski SOFIA started very well in the first set with a strong performance from their new player Evgeniy Bannov who just moved to Bulgaria from Russia’s Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK. The 207 cm tall outside hitter was unstoppable in attack alongside the veteran captain Smilen Mlyakov. However, the Dutch team did not let the home team claim a real edge and put some extra efforts on serving and blocking. Orion eventually won the opening set and it looked like the match was going to turn into an uphill climb for the hosts.

However, Levski SOFIA – led by the legendary player and now head coach Vladimir Nikolov – just started playing better and better and routed the opponent in the next three sets, with Orion not able to score more than 18 points in one set.

Mlyakov finished the match with 24 points and Bannov piled up 16 in his official debut in the European Cups and with Levski SOFIA. He showed a 67% success rate in attack and was very effective from the service line as well. Seain Cook was the top scorer for the visiting team with 15 points.

“The first set was nervous, we made too many mistakes but after that we showed a better game. We knew Orion was a good team with tall players but I expected to win and I am happy with the performance of my team. I hope we will play well also in the second game and will eventually achieve our main goal,” said Vladimir Nikolov after the game.

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