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FIVB World League 2006
Match Description
Hosts Russia take bronze medal

Team Russia celebrates

Hosts Russia entered the 2006 World League bronze medal match hoping to reward their fans with a podium place, but their opponents Bulgaria also had a chance of securing their first-ever podium position in the tournament.

Russia had the edge at the first technical time-out after some strong sreves and spikes by their top-scorer Semen Poltavsky. Bulgaria had the chance to catch up when nobody on the Russian team reacted to a block by Kazakov and Poltavsky, but Martin Stoev's team were unable to capitalise on the serving advantage and trailed by four points when he called his first time-out. Russia kept up the pressure as Bulgaria's serves lacked the accuracy to respond and their defence faltered. They came out of the second time-out with a service error by team captain Konstantinov, followed by a call for lifting the ball, after which head coach Stoev called his second time-out with Russia now five points ahead. Russia edged to a six-point lead when Bulgaria failed to cover a Russian block in the centre of the court, but then Bulgaria replied to draw within four points of the host before Zoran Gajic called his first time-out. Bulgaria's captain once again served out to give Russia set point, which they converted on the second attempt on a side-out from the Bulgarian block to take the first set 25-20.

The teams were evenly matched in the first part of the second set, trading points until a lucky mis-hit by the 217cm Alexey Kazakov dropped for a point to take Russia two points clear at the first technical break. As Russia pulled five points clear, Martin Stoev called his second time-out in the set in an effort to catch up. A defensive error by Bulgaria's Kostadin Stoykov allowed Russia a further advantage. Bulgaria then gifted the home team two serves, helping them hold on to the lead. Russia definitely had their sights set on the bronze medal as they pulled ahead to a five-point lead. They took their first set point in style as Alexey Kuleshov recovered the ball from outside the court with a deft kick that clipped the net. Bulgaria saved the set point once but then served out to hand Russia the scond set 25-19.

Russia maintained the pressure in the third set, drawing three points clear on a Semen Poltavsky ace before Bulgaria could reply. The home team never gave up the lead and looked to have things sewn up as the Russia's top scorer Semen Poltavsky took a point off a spike, then one off a block to keep Russia ahead. A second call of the match on Bulgaria for lifting took Russia to 23-18. They missed the serve for match point, but spiked twice to take the match 25-20, 25-19, 25-19 and the 2006 World League bronze medal.