Khabarovsk, Russia, July 5, 2009 - After losing its last
two matches against Russia, Cuba got quite a payback in Sunday's FIVB World
League match as it crushed the Europeans in straight sets 3-0 (25-19, 25-17,
25-21) before a hostile crowd of 7,000 at the Platinum Arena in Khabarovsk.
The Cubans improved to 6-2 and took a massive step toward
the Final Round of the competition. They top Pool C, five points ahead of
Russia, which sits in second with a 5-3 record.
The Cubans will travel to Bulgaria for matches on July
11-12, while Russia hosts Japan next weekend in Surgut.
Cuba had three players in double figures and was led by
Michael Sanchez with 14 points, followed by captain Roberlandy Simon with 12
and 15-year-old Wilfredo Leon with 10.
Semen Poltavsky led the Russians with 11 points.
The consistent serving and brilliant play of Michael
Sanchez in attack were the key to Cuba's success in the first game. Russia's
reception faltered, which allowed Cuba to take control of the game. At first
the hosts failed to deal with the floating serves of Wilfredo Leon, then
Roberlandy Simon made them struggle with some thundering serves. Russian coach
Daniele Bagnoli had to call a TO in both cases to stop Cuba's runs. But the
Cubans continued to dominate. Michael Sanchez was in sparkling form, leading
his team in attack with 8 points, 7 on kills. The Cubans took the set more than
In the second set Cuba put pressure on the Russian
receivers and soon controlled the game totally, extending their lead from 8-5
to 16-9. The Russians tried not to give up but their opponents were better in
almost all components of the game. The hosts worked hard for every point and
never looked back. The Central American team finished the job quite quickly at
At the start of the third set the Russians were up 4-1
and the crowd of 7,000, silent for
a while, turned up the volume once more. But the Cubans weren't in the mood to
prolong the match. They increased the tempo of the game and were soon ahead 8-6
by the first TTO. The Europeans battled but the Russian spikers looked
completely powerless against the towering Cuban block. Soon the Cubans were
dancing on the court celebrating their important victory.