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Lube on track as Leal holds off Skra

 
Tsvetan Sokolov pushes the ball into the hands of Artur Szalpuk as Cucine Lube Civitanova outplay PGE Skra Belchatow on the opening day of the 2018 FIVB Club World Championship in Plock.
Plock, Poland, November 26, 2018 - Italy's Cucine Lube Civitanova overcame a potentially tricky situation in the fourth set but got off on the right foot at the 2018 FIVB Men's Club World Championship here Monday evening with a tense 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-21, 27-25) win over reigning Polish champions and hosts of the event PGE Skra Belchatow.

With Yoandy Leal bringing in 16 points and Tsvetan Sokolov and Osmany Juantorena adding another 12 each, last year's World Championship runners-up held off a dangerous opponent that produced the game's joint top scorers in Mariusz Wlazly and Artur Szalpuk at 18 points each.

Skra's first meaningful lead in the score came deep in the second set. The hosts rallied from 17-20 down to overtake the Italians 22-20 and hold on before Yoandy Leal hit long - and not even a Video Challenge could stop Skra from tying the overall score at 1-1.


Grzegorz Lomacz sets the ball for Skra under the gaze of Lube's Osmany Juantorena, Monday in Plock.

But three straight aces from Leal in the third to extend Lube's lead to 13-7 were good to re-establish the Italians' dominance in the game. Lube never looked back, neither in the third nor the better part of the fourth set.

But when it all seemed over and Skra looked resigned to their fate, the Polish side somehow clawed their way back from 22-16 down, cancelled three match points of Lube after 24-21 and another at 25-24, before Bruno Rezende finally brought it home with a block on Artur Szalpuk for the final point in the game.

It was a tense match that also included a red card shown midway through the fourth set by first referee Mario Bernaola Sanchez of Spain to Skra coach Robrto Piazza. But in the end Skra succumbed to the their own unforced errors - a worrisome total of 40 (to Lube's 32).

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