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02/03/2016 22:38
Benfica LISBOA through to Challenge Cup semis, hope to improve on 2015 silver medal
2016 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup - Men

Alexandroupolis, Greece, March 2, 2016. Last year’s silver medal winners Benfica LISBOA of Portugal celebrated on Wednesday night their qualification for the semi-finals of the 2016 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup – Men after claiming also their quarter-final re-match with Greece’s Ethnikos ALEXANDROUPOLIS, cruising to a 3-2 away victory (23-25, 25-20, 25-19, 26-28, 15-11) to follow up on their 3-1 home win from two weeks ago. In the next round of the competition, Benfica will play Italy’s Calzedonia VERONA, the team mentored by Volleyball legend Andrea Giani.

Pushed by strong support provided by their fans, the team of Ethnikos caught a flying start and cruised to an early 8-2 lead at the first technical time-out. Benfica used the mistakes of the local team and with its block got hold of the game closing in at 10-8. After blocking Igor Guillen Gonçalves, the visitors from Portugal additionally reduced their gap from 14-10 to 14-13. Ethnikos did extremely well with their offensive game and put a lot of pressure on the opponent with their service, this eventually resulting in a 25-23 set win for the home side.

The second set turned into a real battle. The Portuguese team improved its game and had the upper hand for most of this period. Gradually Ethnikos fought back, balanced and equalised the score at 12-12 coming back from an early 6-10 deficit and after that did the same when closing in at 16-16 from 14-16. Benfica nevertheless was the team which made fewer mistakes, with better success rates in attack and as a result the visitors equalised the match with a nice action by their star player Hugo Gaspar (25-20).

After that Benfica had full control of the game with Ethnikos always having to chase their opponent. The Greek team trailed 8-14 with Nikola Mijailovic trying to do the best for his team and close the gap from Benfica. Gaspar was the crucial player and made the difference at this stage paving the way for a 25-19 win for the Portuguese team which at this stage had already secured their qualification for the semis.

As the final result of the match did not matter at all, both teams played freely making a lot of substitutions. Ethnikos won the fourth set after many up and downs with an ace by Stavros Kasampalis sealing the final 28-26 and calling for a tie-break.

In the fifth and final set the young players of Ethnikos started well leading the way at 3-0, but the more experienced Portuguese players came back to the court and imposed their supremacy again. After leading 8-5 at the side switch, everything went just easy for Benfica that got something more to celebrate beside their qualification for the semis with their 15-11 win securing a 3-2 away victory.

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the match

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