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23/09/2017 21:34
Bulgaria claim all-important victory over Ukraine as Russia edge Turkey in Pool C
2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Women

Baku, Azerbaijan, September 23, 2017. On Saturday afternoon, Bulgaria secured a 3-2 victory (25-23, 21-25, 23-25, 25-11, 15-4) over Ukraine to open the programme of the second competition day at the 2017 women’s EuroVolley in Baku. This result is likely to pave their way towards the Playoff stage, knowing that Russia and Turkey are the heavy favourites for the top spots in Pool C. Ukraine, on the other hand, lost their second tiebreak in as many days. Actually, they obviously ran out of fuel much earlier, losing the fourth set at a canter and failing to regroup for the all-deciding fifth set. Later in the evening, Russia claimed a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Turkey (25-23, 20-25, 25-23, 25-20) in a match filled with drama and intensity – thus remaining in full contention for the top spot in the pool as well as for the defence of the title they won in 2013 and 2015.

Bulgaria vs. Ukraine 3-2 (25-23, 21-25, 23-25, 25-11, 15-4)

Ukraine had almost caused the real sensation of the first competition day but they eventually fell short of edging reigning European champions Russia at the tiebreak. As they took to the court of the iconic National Gymnastics Arena for the second time in 24 hours, the question was whether they were still mentally and physically drained from such an effort or if they actually got an extra boost of energy ahead of their matchup from Bulgaria.

The second scenario seemed to be the more realistic one as Ukraine opened the match with an 8-5 run before the ‘Lionesses’ from Bulgaria rallied back to level the score at 8-8. It soon looked like this was going to be a very close game – especially since any victory could prove decisive to make it to the Playoff stage with Russia and Turkey being the pre-favourites in the pool. Bulgaria had more experience at this level to rely on but Ukraine looked determined to fight for their first victory in the tournament – but Strashimira Simeonova (Filipova) secured the first set at 25-23 for Bulgaria after cashing her team’s second opportunity to claim an early edge in the match.

Ukraine responded in the best way to this initial blow as they rushed to a massive 10-3 lead in the second set before Bulgaria fought back to cut their deficit by means of a 5-2 positive run on their end. Even though they had a few blackouts – thus showing the same inconsistency they had in some sections of Friday’s match with Russia – Ukraine were able to hold on their early advantage and with their team captain Nadiia Kodola leading the way, the 2017 European League gold medal winners eventually levelled the match (25-21).

Ukraine made up for their slow start to the third set to turn an early 6-8 deficit into a 12-9 lead and after that, it was a rollercoaster of a game – with Ukraine edging ahead a few times and Bulgaria always closing in. At 23-all, the set could have gone either way – but Anastasiia Chernukha blocked Elitsa Vasileva to secure a first Ukrainian set ball and the next rally went to the European League champions who doubled their lead in the match following a Bulgarian mistake.

The course of the game changed quite dramatically in the fourth set – which Bulgaria dominated from start to end (25-11), thus making sure Ukraine would play their second tiebreak in as many matches and as many days. Mistake after mistake, Ukraine compromised their chances at the beginning of the fifth set (8-2) – and Bulgaria took full advantage of the situation to secure a 3-2 victory, which could prove a truly valuable one in their quest for a spot in the EuroVolley Playoffs.


Gariy Yegiazarov, head coach of Team Ukraine: “It was a really difficult match for us. We found our rhythm and we were close to securing a victory but we eventually lost in the fifth set. Well, we have two points after two matches but we need more. The third and last match in the pool phase with Turkey will be a truly decisive one for us.”

Ivan Dimitrov, head coach of Bulgaria: “Ukraine are the surprise team of this European Championship. I know they have a strong team and they played really well. Some of my players were quite nervous and I can understand their feelings because we played our first match at this year’s Eurovolley. Yes, Bulgaria celebrated a victory today but we must focus on the next game.”

Strashimira Simeonova, middle blocker of Bulgaria: “It was the first official match for me after the birth of my child. Our group is very interesting – there have been tiebreaks in all matches so far. The National Gymnastics Arena is truly amazing – I feel a real Volleyball atmosphere in the hall. I am confident that we can play better in the next matches.”

Turkey vs. Russia 1-3 (23-25, 25-20, 23-25, 20-25)

The real highlight of the day in Baku was the matchup featuring reigning European champions Russia and Turkey – two teams with a strong connection with Azerbaijan and with a large number of fans in attendance at the National Gymnastics Arena. Russia had disappointed a little in their matchup with Ukraine on Friday whereas Turkey were making their debut in the tournament, so there was much to look forward to for the crowd as well as for all those following the match remotely.

Turkey had travelled to Baku with an experienced team placed under the guidance of Giovanni Guidetti – and a roster featuring a number of players who had made history by representing this country at the London 2012 Olympics. As they were chasing their third #EuroVolley medal in history, Turkey had a bit of a rough start to the match but they slowly found their rhythm, cancelling two consecutive set points for their opponents to close in at 23-24. However, Russian star Tatiana Kosheleva was merciless and she eventually finished it off 25-23 to set the tone for a close, exciting match.

Turkey responded with a solid performance producing an 8-5 lead in the second set and much to the delight of their fans the ‘Sultans of the Net’ extended their advantage to 16-10. There was plenty to enjoy with many long rallies as Russia and Turkey put on a real Volleyball show, but this time around Turkey had the upper hand (25-20), thus levelling the match.

Russia coach Konstantin Ushakov made a number of changes to his starting line-up for the third set – and with the help of the outstanding Kosheleva – he achieved the desired effect as his side claimed an 8-4 lead to find their way back into the game. However, this trend did not last for long as Turkey scored five times in a row but the course of the game changed again following a discussion around a challenge called by Turkey. This resulted in a red card to their captain Eda Erdem Dündar and their coach Guidetti having to leave the team’s bench for the remainder of the set. Russia sailed to a 17-12 lead but Turkey’s players rose to the occasion fighting their way back to 20-all with great contribution from their outside hitter Neriman Özsoy Gencyürek. Russia claimed three points in a row, but Turkey did just the same (23-23) before Kosheleva eventually finished a truly dramatic set 25-23.

Turkey obviously felt the consequences of this setback as they trailed 2-8 early in the fourth set and they never quite recovered from this deficit. Despite a late surge by the Turks, Russia finished it off at 25-20, thus recording their second victory in the tournament.

Konstantin Ushakov, head coach of Russia: “I made some changes to the initial starting line-up and I am happy with the way it worked. We have 14 excellent players on our roster and the second lines are always ready to step in when needed and to cope with any situation we could have to face during our matches. To this extent, I am obviously happy. Three out of the four sets we played tonight were extremely close – and the match was a real fight featuring two excellent teams.”

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23/09/2017 21:19:00
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