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16/03/2016 23:56
Benfica cement status of real nemesis for Italian teams in Challenge Cup semis
2016 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup - Men

Verona, Italy, March 16, 2016. Last year’s silver medallists Benfica LISBOA of Portugal claimed a 3-2 away win over Calzedonia VERONA of Italy to set their sights on what would be their second consecutive appearance in the finals of the CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup – Men. Last year Benfica had upset another Italian team – CMC RAVENNA – in the semis of this competition and on Wednesday night the Portuguese champions upset a crowd of 2,714 by recording a tie-break win over the side coached by Volleyball legend Andrea Giani (18-25, 26-24, 25-16, 21-25, 15-12), waiting now for the rematch to follow on Sunday in the Lisbon.  

Calzedonia took the court with the usual starting six: Michele Baranowicz setting, Sasa Starovic opposite, Taylor Sander and Uros Kovacevic on the outside and Aidan Zingel and Simone Anzani in the middle, with Nicola Pesaresi as libero. Benfica responded with Paulo Renan Bertassoni setting, Hugo Gaspar opposite, André Lopes and Ivan Kolev on the outside and Justin William Duff and Flavio Soares in the middle, plus libero Ivo Casas.
Calzedonia began well with Kovacevic and Anzani putting pressure on the Portuguese receivers and helping to open up a 5-1 lead. A dominant display across the front row from Zingel in attack and block consolidated the advantage. Benfica continued to suffer in serve reception making it difficult to find effective solutions in attack. At the second technical time-out the Portuguese team found themselves trailing 16-9. The only bright spot for Benfica was the attack of Soares who seemed to be able to put the ball on the floor with consistency. Benfica LISBOA managed to reduce Calzedonia's advantage bringing the score back to 17-14 but the hosts eventually closed out the first set 25-18.
Benfica had a better start to the second set finding continuity in both attack and defence, creating several opportunities in transition attack to open up a small advantage (6-4). Kovacevic in attack and an ace from Baranowicz levelled the scores at 7-7.  After that, Lopes was forced to leave the court at 11-11 with an ankle injury and was replaced by Roberto Reis.  The match continued point for point until the second technical time out (16-15) then a block from Soares drew a time out from Andrea Giani at 18-17 for Benfica.  In the final stages of the set Sander blocked Gaspar one on one to hand the lead to VERONA (21-20) and a tough serve by the same Sander forced a Benfica overpass that was subsequently dispatched by Zingel (23-21). Benfica dug deep and clawed back the advantage, first blocking Kovacevic and then acing the same player to take the lead (25-24).  They then closed out the set at the first opportunity with a winning transition attack from Roberto Reis against a poorly formed Calzedonia block (26-24).
Benfica took the early upper hand again in the third set leading 8-5 into the first technical time-out.  Good serving from captain Gaspar extended the lead to 10-5 before a Calzedonia block slowed the momentum of the Portuguese. Giani tried substituting Francois Lecat for Kovacevic but a pair of consecutive service aces from Roberto Reis extended Benfica’s lead even further (14-7).  Towards the end of the set Giani tried Luca Spirito in place of Baranowicz but Benfica maintained control of the set closing it out in emphatic fashion 25-16.
It was Calzedonia who started strong in the fourth set and were in charge at the first technical time-out (8-4).  The home team maintained a comfortable lead during the middle stages of the set with a well distributed attack and some solid defence. Benfica regained some ground with a spirited blocking display from Soares who scored three stuff blocks in quick succession bringing the score to 19-18 but Calzedonia through Starovic were able to win the points that mattered and to take the set 25-21.
The early equilibrium in the tie-break was broken by an Anzani block which gave Verona a lead of 7-5. Benfica regained the lead (11-10) with two stuff blocks again from Soares, the first on Anzani and then on Starovic.  Another one on one block by Roberto Reis on Starovic and an error in attack from Zingel handed the victory to Benfica 3-2.

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News nr. 9 of 47
19/03/2016 13:19:00
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16/03/2016 22:05:00
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