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18/01/2018 22:52
VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN come from behind to keep immaculate record
2018 CEV Volleyball Champions League - Men

Luxembourg, January 18, 2018. VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN came back from two sets down to pull out a dramatic 3-2 victory in the ‘Match of the Week’ with PAOK THESSALONIKI and improve their record in Pool B of the 2018 CEV Volleyball Champions League – Men to three wins in as many matches. TRENTINO Diatec hosted Arkas IZMIR in the other match scheduled for Thursday night to complete the programme of the third round of action in the pool stage of Europe’s elite club competition as the three-time CL winners stormed to a comprehensive 3-0 victory.

PAOK THESSALONIKI (GRE) vs. VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN (GER) 2-3 (25-17, 30-28, 14-25, 17-25, 9-15)

•    Greece’s PAOK THESSALONIKI came close to a most important victory against VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, but the German side prevailed 3-2 in the end.
•    In the first hour, the fans who attended the match at PAOK Sports Arena witnessed one of the best performances of their team this season so far; however, their powerful rivals said the last word and celebrated their third win in as many games in Europe’s elite club competition.
•    The first set proved to be ideal for Daniele Ricci’s players, who put in serious trouble the visitors with their services. Middle blocker Panagiotis Pelekoudas caught the Germans by surprise and scored quite a few points, while debutant Nikolay Uchikov managed to connect immediately with his new teammates. The Bulgarian opposite made it 16-9 thanks to two consecutive ace serve points and there was no turning back, with the difference reaching double digits (24-14) just before Uchikov put the final touch (25-17).
•    The local side took the lead since the beginning of the second set as well, but this was a much closer fight: PAOK knew how to earn some long rally action points, such as those won by Ramon Martinez Gion (8-6) and Rafail Koumentakis (12-9). However, VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN always returned and eventually took the lead 22-21 and the first set ball (24-23), thanks to their fast-tempo kills. Nevertheless, it was PAOK to win the set 30-28, after a much-disputed video challenge on Bartlomiej Boladz’s missed attack.

•    After a long protest, Vital Heynen found the way for his team to fight back and the German squad showed their skills in set 3, which was theirs from the start. VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN reached the first technical time-out with a three-point advantage (8-5), kept their cool when PAOK tried to trim the difference before the second technical and eventually sealed a comfortable 25-14 win, with Andreas Takvam serving an ace and giant Philipp Collin delivering a block.
•    The visitors remained untouchable throughout the fourth set, too, as they took off after the initial PAOK efforts to stay close. Daniele Ricci’s time-out at 11-20 helped his team into a short rally, but nothing really changed, as Collin, Boladz and Jakob Günthör were commanding at the net, the latter one scoring the very last point (25-17).
•    The tiebreak started a PAOK business, as Matthias Valkiers’s serves gave his team an initial 3-0 lead and Koumentakis took it from there and made it 5-1. Nevertheless, Greek outsider hitter Athanasios Protopsaltis drew level for the Germans (7-7), who came in front for the first time at 9-8. The unstoppable Collin established VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN ahead on the scoreboard with a smart block (12-9) and Uchikov’s missed spike put the nail in the coffin, as the visitors finished off their rivals with an impressive 6-0 series (15-9).

PAOK head coach, Daniele Ricci, commented after the match: “It is difficult for us to play for a long time at our best level. For about one hour we played well, but then we had problems especially against such an opponent, which might not be so powerful but knows what is necessary to do every time. They think as a team and they do not make mistakes when it is important. If we could play well for a little longer, maybe we would have won tonight.”

On the other hand, the head coach of VfB FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Vital Heynen, said: “PAOK played really well in the beginning; they served us away and blocked us away in set 1. The second set was a closer one and I think we were getting better and better. We are happy to take the victory and two points against PAOK, since it is not easy to beat them here.”

TRENTINO Diatec (ITA) vs. Arkas IZMIR (TUR) 3-0 (25-22, 26-24, 25-17)

•    TRENTINO Diatec confirmed their positive tradition in matches against Arkas IZMIR: tonight at PalaTrento they achieved the fourth success in four matches versus the Turkish team.
•    The hosting team was extremely good at keeping their opponents under pressure during the first two sets before dominating in the third one.
•    The first 3-0 victory in the Champions League this season allows TRENTINO Diatec to cement their second place in Pool E, just one point off current leaders Zaksa KEDZIERZYN-KOZLE.
•    Best scorer and MVP of the match was the opposite of TRENTINO and of the Italian national team Luca Vettori, who tallied up 19 points with 78% of success rate in attack, three blocks and two aces. Filippo Lanza and Uros Kovacevic finished the match in double digits as well with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
•    The family derby between Nicholas Hoag and his father Glenn did not take place because of a shoulder injury suffered by the outside hitter of TRENTINO, who followed the whole match from the bench.
•    The last one to give up on the Turkish side of the court was their Cuban opposite hitter Michael Sanchez Bozhulev, who scored 14 points, but Arkas struggled a lot at blocking and serving, recording only three blocks and two aces overall.

Luca Vettori, player of TRENTINO Diatec: “It was really important to me to play at my best because I definitely had something to make up for after my last performances which were not very good. We played effectively and consistently even from a psychological point of view, and this is the demonstration that hard work always pays off.”

Nikola Jovovic, player of Arkas IZMIR: “We knew since the eve of the match that it would have been a very tough one; for two sets we managed to stand in front of a strong and experienced team like TRENTINO and we have to see this performance as a start point for our future. The Champions League pool in which we ended up is really competitive; we could realistically aim at claiming third place in the group.”

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