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12/02/2020 22:48
Unstoppable Jastrzebski dash Zenit's hopes in men's Champions League
CEV Champions League Volley 2020 - Men

Luxembourg, February 12, 2020. Poland's Jastrzebski Wegiel destroyed six-time European champions Zenit Kazan, placing the Russian side in a very perilous position in their quest for a quarterfinal berth, but Fakel Novy Urengoy have now positioned themselves nicely for a direct ticket to the next phase, while France's Tours VB stunned Polish Plusliga leaders Warsaw as Leg 5 of the CEV Champions League League continued on Wednesday.

In Poland, Jastrzebski remained undefeated after five matches, smashing past Zenit 3-1 (25-18, 30-28, 19-25, 25-23) before a sell-out crowd of some 3,100 fans. Zenit now need to win their last match of pool play next week and pray for a combination of other results for a miracle to happen that would see them through to the quarterfinals. The Polish team, on the other hand, have secured first place in the pool and with it their spot in the quarterfinals as well. 

Zenit missed their chance at tying the game at 1-1, after blowing four set points before Jastrzebski took the advantage. Germany's Christian Fromm served hard resulting in a free ball that was picked up perfectly for Tomasz Fornal to smash it down crosscourt and bring the set home.

Eventually Zenit did pull one back, but it was all too little and too late. With the score tied at 23-all in the fourth, Germany's Lukas Kampa squeezed the ball between the block and the net, before Earvin Ngapeth missed his chance at extending the game when he hit wide for match point - a rather unceremonious way to celebrate his 29th birthday today.

MVP Fornal was Jastrzebski's top scorer on 15, but that was two points short of the match high by Zenit's Maxim Mikhailov.

In fact, VC Greenyard Maaseik leapfrogged Zenit for second place in Pool C, after taking down Turkey's Halkbank Ankara 3-1 (25-22, 34-36, 25-21, 25-18) - though it's possible all this may change on the last leg of pool play next week.

Maaseik had five opportunities to go two sets up, but Halkbank survived all of these before clinching the marathon set on the seventh set point of their own.

Canada's Robert Wojcik on 24 points for Maaseik was top scorer of the game, with Norway's Jonas Kvalen adding another 18 for the home side.

Twelve blocks (5 by Ibrahim Emet alone) were not enough for Halkbank to challenge Maaseik who responded with 11 stuffs of their own.

Verva Warszawa Orlen Paliwa suffered a setback in their own race for second place in Pool D, after falling in straight sets to Tours VB in France 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-20). The two sides are now tied in second place of the standings on both wins and points, though the Polish team has a slight edge on set ratio.

With a match high of 17 points from Latvia's Hermans Egleskalns, the eventual MVP of the game, Tours applied pressure from the service line, producing seven aces to the visitors' one.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Fakel shut out Kuzbass Kemerovo 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-20) in the all-Russia clash to take a clear lead in the Pool B standings - but first place is not quite confirmed yet. They still need to beat ACH Volley Ljubljana next week on the closing day of pool play in Slovenia, which is exactly where Kuzbass stumbled earlier in the competition.

Denis Bogdan with 18 points (including 3 of his team's 8 aces) and Hungary's Krisztian Padar with 15 lifted Fakel to victory, as the home side overwhelmed their opponents on the net with 12 stuffs to 3 (5 blocks from Alexander Gutsalyuk alone) and a 59% (39/66) to just 37% (34/93) attacking efficiency.

ACH Volley Ljubljana, meanwhile, missed the chance at staying in the race to snatch second place of the pool from Kuzbass, after blowing a two-set lead as Berlin Recycling Volleys thundered back for a 3-2 (22-25, 19-25, 25-16, 25-22, 15-12) comeback win in the Slovenian capital.

France's Samuele Tuia led Berlin with 19 points and was named MVP of the game, though the match high came from Serbia's Bozidar Vucicevic with 21 for the Slovenian side.

Leg 5 of pool play in the men's Champions League concludes on Thursday.

Match by match:

Fakel NOVY URENGOY (RUS) vs Kuzbass KEMEROVO (RUS) 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-20)

"We were completely successful today. It's like we celebrated a birthday and gave ourselves a gift. Today we played great in all the components and did everything to win."
Camillo Placi, Fakel head coach

"Today we showed the game that we should always show when playing at home. And at the moment, this is our best game of the year. We did a lot of things in defense and on the block and we made very few mistakes on the court. All this led to a natural result."
Igor Kolodinskiy, Fakel captain

"This was a bad game, of course. We didn't do much in attack. We didn't start the first set very well and it lasted the whole game. It is very difficult to play with so many mistakes. Fakel had a very strong attack and we did not have the opportunity to pass with a good reception. It was very difficult to hold and endure the onslaught of our opponent."
Gheorghe Cretu, Kuzbass head coach

"We are in bad shape at this stage of the season. We will look for ways to make it out of this hole. In the home match against Berlin, we hope to win and go through to the next stage of the Champions League."
Igor Kobzar, Kuzbass captain

ACH Volley LJUBLJANA (SLO) vs BERLIN Recycling Volleys (GER) 2-3 (25-22, 25-19, 16-25, 22-25, 12-15)

"Before the game probably no one believed in us, but we did believe in ourselves. We knew that with our game we can be dangerous. Maybe it didn't look like it in the first match, but the first two sets at home I think we showed our quality. The Germans kept fighting and at the end managed to win. I think if we had made less mistakes in the fourth set, things could maybe have turned out differently."
Matic Videcnik, ΑCH Volley Ljubljana middle blocker
"I think they played amazing in the first two sets. They started really good and we had a lot of troubles in our reception. It was a nice fight, luckily at the end we managed to push them down. To be honest, we came to Ljubljana to win 3-0 or at least 3-1 and we were really disappointed that we started with 0-2. This win is good for our mind, but not so good for our position in Pool B."
Samuele Tuia, Berlin Recycling Volleys outside hitter

JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel (POL) vs Zenit KAZAN (RUS) 3-1 (25-18, 30-28, 19-25, 25-23)

"It was for sure one of the most beautiful evenings in Jastrzebie since I began playing here. Beating Kazan twice in the pool stage is something big. It shows that it was not by chance that we won in Kazan. And we have some good level on our team. Today it was a big team effort."
Lukas Kampa, Jastrzebski Wegiel setter

"Jastrzebski played very well today. They started very aggressive in service and put us in very big difficulties. They were also better at managing difficult situations and their siding out. Now we have a very little chance to advance to the next round."

Tomaso Totolo, Zenit Kazan assistant coach

TOURS VB (FRA) vs Verva WARSZAWA Orlen Paliwa (POL) 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-20)

"I think we played a very good game in serving. It was one our best serving performances. Our opposite and middle blockers also did a great job. We are looking forward to taking another three points against Benfica next week."
Nathan Wounembaina, Tours VB outside hitter
"It was a really tough game. We fought very hard, but I think it's the worst game we have played so far."
Antoine Brizard, Verva Warszawa Orlen Paliwa setter

VC Greenyard MAASEIK (BEL) vs Halkbank ANKARA (TUR) 3-1 (25-22, 34-36, 25-21, 25-18)

"This was not an easy win, because Ankara were very strong in defense, especially in the first two sets. Everyone told me we still have a chance to qualify for the quarterfinals, but that will be a hell of a job. Therefore, we have to beat Jastrzebski next week and you know, Jastrzebski proved to be stronger than Zenit Kazan twice. I do not need to tell you anything more."
Just Dronkers, Maaseik libero

"What a beautiful way to celebrate my 27th birthday. You know, last year, I was here too on my birthday, but then I was still playing for Berlin. But we won 3-2. So, Maaseik is a good place for me."
Jan Zimmermann, Maaseik setter

"We played two really good sets with a very good block and we should have won them both. But from the third set on Maaseik started serving very well and they proved to be a strong contender for a spot in the quarterfinals."
Taner Atik, Halkbank Ankara head coach

Click here for further information on CEV Champions League Volley 2020.

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