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Serbia repeat World League win over Cuba

Serbia's Bojan Janic, who scored 12 points in the match, tries to beat the Cuban defence of Wilfredo Leon, Osmany Camejo and Fernando Hernandez

Milan, Italy, September 30, 2010 – Serbia, ranked 4th in the world, repeated their World League bronze-medal match victory by beating world No. 8 Cuba 3-1 (16-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-19) in Milan in the first match of the second round of the FIVB Men’s World Championship 2010. Serbia's Ivan Miljkovic top-scored with 19 points while captain Robertlandy Simon scored 17.

The come-from-behind victory, Serbia’s 17th in 24 matches against Cuba, gives the 1998 silver medalists a great start in the race to qualify for the third round by finishing in the top two out of three teams in Pool H. The third team in the group is Mexico.

Serbia scored the first point of the match but Cuba responded with a winning block before taking a 5-2 lead. Some superb spiking from Serbia’s Nikola Kovacevic and Dragan Stankovic narrowed the gap to 11-8, while Joandy Leal was Cuba’s hero by keeping his team in the lead through an outstanding serve which yielded an ace and caused plenty of receiving trouble for Serbia. At 14-9 down, Serbia coach Igor Kolakovic called his troops in but it was to no avail. Cuba had found their rhythm, led 16-11 at the second technical timeout (TTO) and went on to close the opening set 25-16 thanks to Simon’s decisive serve.

The second set started in similar fashion to the first with Serbia opening the scoring before Simon immediately replied and put Cuba into a clear lead. Serbia narrowed the gap to 7-6 but Cuba’s winning block stretched their lead to 8-6 at the first TTO. With the Serbian players facing early showers, veteran Miljkovic rallied to the cause, his lethal right arm coming to the fore and bringing Serbia back into the set and the match. At 13-13 a Kovacevic ace extended the recovery still further and it was not long before Serbia were on the verge of sealing the set at 23-19 ahead. It was Miljkovic who signed it off with two sublime spikes down the tramlines.

Once again Cuba made all the early running at the beginning of the third set. A Simon block gave them an 8-5 lead at the first TTO but Miljkovic again turned out to be the key with his unbeatable spikes pulling Serbia back level at 10-10. The tight third set found the teams locked together at 21-21 before Marko Podrascanin and Kovacevic blocked Serbia ahead, giving the Europeans the impetus to claim the set and take a significant step towards winning the match.

But although two sets to one down Cuba were not about to give up and they scored the first three points of the fourth set. Seventeen-year-old Wilfredo Leon and Leal were their go-to guys as Cuba jumped to a 7-3 lead. Unfortunately this coincided with an ankle injury to Leal as he landed following a spike, bringing on veteran Henry Bell. Serbia soon pounced and levelled the scores at 7-7 before leading 8-7 at the first TTO. With a heavily supported ankle Leal came back on with Serbia ahead 11-10 before Fernando Hernandez spiked to level matters at 11-11. However Miljkovic was unstoppable by this stage and he led Serbia to 16-14 and 20-17 leads before closing out the set for victory, six points ahead.

 


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FIVB Press Department Director - Richard Baker
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Email: press@fivb.org

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