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FIVB World League 2006
Match Description
Russia overcome France after five sets

Abramov (left) of Russia spikes against Kieffer and Pujol (FRA)

In a sombre note to the start of Russia's second match, a minute's silence was observed on a national day of mourning in memory of the 169 people who lost their lives in Tuesday's aeroplane crash in Ukraine. France were not intimidated by the vociferous Russian home crowd and got off to a solid start to take a three-point advantage before Russia closed the gap thanks to two consecutive errors by Philippe Blain's team. Russia drew level after the first technical time-out on an ace by Alexander Abrosimov, but France were not willing to surrender the lead. As Russia put on the pressure, France's libero Jean-Francois Exiga put in some excellent saves. Russia finally took the edge and went two points clear at the second technical break, though France had a superior attacking percentage at this stage. There was no margin between the teams as they swapped point for point from 20-18 until set point for Russia, which the team gave away but nevertheless took the set 25-23.

France made a spirited start to the second set and took the advantage before a block by the Russian giant Alexey Kazakov stopped their run of success. Kazakov subequently spiked into the net and served out, leaving France ahead at the first technical time-out. The points remained tied after some excellent rallies, but Russia took the lead with a tip over and a solid block by the 217cm Kazakov, whilst France stood their ground to maintain a strong formation and exploit some gaps in the Russian defence to stay level. Captain Stephane Antiga put his team ahead before Zoran Gajic called the first time-out for his team. An excellent performance by France's three-man block helped put the team four points clear before Gajic's second time-out to counter the attack. France continued to attack after the time-out and, after giving away one set point, took the second set 25-21.

Russia took the upper hand in the early points of the thrid set and led by two points at the first interval only to concede one of these immediately after the technical time-out with a service error. France put in a valiant defence as libero Exiga once again kept his team in the game with a save from next to the advertising hoardings to close to within one point. However, Russia pulled away towards the second technical break, but France responded immediately afterwards with an ace and another block from the captain. After a combination of French errors and excellent Russian spiking, Zoran Gajic's team moved five points clear.But some flying digs from the French libero Exiga once again kept them in the running. Russia held out in the end, though, to take the fourth set 25-23.

France were intent on forcing the tie-break and led by five points at the first technical time-out after some strong attacks. The Russians used the break to regroup and narrow the gap to three points but France had moved six points clear at the first technical time-out. At 17-10, head coach Zoran Gajic brought Sergey Baranov on to a huge cheer from the crowd and Russia promptly reduced the difference by two points in quick succession before the sub served into the net. With his team still six points adrift at 20-16, Gajic called his second time-out for Russia to counter, but France kept up the pressure, with the power of one spike sending the bounce off the Russian block into the stands. Russia did not give up and left France stalled on 23 points as they moved to within two points of levelling, but Philippe Blain's team held out to win the fourth set 25-21 and force the tie-break for the second time in as many matches.

Russia came into the tie-break with all guns blazing as a roar went up for every point and they edged ahead before Philippe Blain called a time-out to re-organise his team. France closed the gap with a cross-court spike before Gajic called his players off for a pep talk. Russia kept up the pressure but were caught unaware as France returned what the Russian team mistakenly thought was a two-touch reception. France then served out and made a critical attack error to let Russia slip away and take a four-point advantage before Philippe Blain called his second time-out after a killer block from the towering Kazakov. A thrilling penultimate rally gave Russia match point at 14-9 only for Baranov to spike out. The next French block passed the line by a hair's breadth for Russia to win the game 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-10.