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24/09/2011 23:55
Host Italy remain unbeaten in Pool B
2011 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Women

Monza, Italy, September 24, 2011 - Defending champions Italy remained unbeaten after a hard-fought 3-1 win over Azerbaijan (25-22, 25-22, 21-25, 25-16) in Pool B in Monza PalaIper at the 2011 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women on Saturday. It was the 19th win for Italy in European Championships.

On the stands a lot of Azeri fans equipped with trumpets supported Mammadova and teammates, but it didn’t help enough. Best player for Italy was Carolina Costagrande who scored 16 points including two blocks, while Azeri Polina Rahimova booked 23 points.

In the first set Azerbaijan and Italy both kept going point by point until 16-15 for the Azeri. However, the score was reversed by Massimo Barbolini's team who even opened a gap of five points at 21-16. Rahimova and Mammadova tried to catch up, but Gioli's blocking stopped their comeback. The set ended up with a tight 25-22.

Italy reached the first technical timeout in the second set 8-6 ahead, but Garayev's team didn't give up and the power of Azeri setter Oksana Parkhomenko led her team to a 16-12 lead at the second technical break. The Azeri still led by six points at 22-16. Impressively, Italy bounced back bravely with nine points in a row closing out the set 25-22.

The third set was still very balanced until 17-17. Excellent Azeri blocking and two mistakes by Francesca Piccinini and Antonella Del Core helped Azerbaijan to win the third set.

Thanks to the amazing wing-spiker Francesca Piccinini and several blocks of Gioli on Rahimova, Italy regained control in the fourth and last set, 25-16.

Coach Massimo Barbolini: “We played a good game and demonstrated something more than just playing for winning at all costs. We made some errors in attack and a few easy errors in defense. The Azeri were particularly good at serving and attacking. The Azeri have a different style. They are hard to contain due to their physical presence. Tomorrow we will have to face a team whose game is similar to ours.”

Italian captain Eleonora Lo Bianco: “Comprehensively, we played a good game. In the last set, the Azeri defense could not keep the pace with our service. They were focused and result-oriented. We showed good blocking and defense - which are one of our main strengths - especially in the second set.”

Azeri captain Oksana Parkhomenko: “We fought against a great team, a team which plays differently than we do. We had problems in blocking their attacks.”

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