Havana, Cuba, June 20, 2009 - Russia defeated Cuba in
five sets (25-18, 19-25, 21-25, 25-20 and 13-15), in front of about 15,000
spectators at Ciudad Deportiva Coliseum during Pool C action of the 2009 World
Cuba lost for the first time in the qualifying round,
while Russia leaves Havana with a 3-1 win-loss record.
Both squads stayed with Friday's starting lineups, but it
was an even affair to begin with. As a matter of fact, Russia couldn't get a
two-point lead until the 12th point. Cuba's setters managed to fix their poor
receiving, and libero Kleiber Gutierrez proved once again his boldness, diving
and saving some incredible balls. The visitors gave away a 13-10 advantage, but
recovered later. Yury Berezhko struggled, but Cuba's serve didn't help the home
team. Youngster Wilfredo Leon thrilled everyone with a powerful ace and Cuba
went ahead 18-17. A huge blockade by giant Alexey Kazakov flipped the score.
The Cubans became unfocused and finally lost the set 21-25.
Cuba head coach Orlando Samuells opened the second set
with Miguel Angel Dalmau instead of Osmany Camejo. After a couple of good
plays, Dalmau got rather lost on court, but vindicated himself with an
astonishing spike. Russia took a 2-6 lead but Cuba entered the first technical
timeout at 8-6. Captain Roberlandy Simon gave a statement of authority with a solo
blockade and the fans unleashed the "wave" around the Coliseum. That
reaction somehow demoralized the Russians, who failed to make the most of
Cuba's few mistakes, while Leon was almost unstoppable and Cuba evened the
Russian star Semen Poltavsky woke up and scored some good
points. On the other side, Rolando Cepeda was ineffective, but Samuells kept
him on court. 15-year-old Leon was Cuba's weapon of choice, and Russia chased
him down. Cuba pushed ahead 19-12 and seemed for a time to be the only team on
court. Russian head coach Daniele Bagnoli couldn't hide his disappointment at
the poor attacks, worsening serves and a lack of leadership that took his
players out of the game. An ace by Cepeda gave the set to Cuba 25-21.
Nevertheless, the Russians fought back and took the lead
in the 4th set. Joandri Leal, with his peculiar hairstyle, got back into the
game and drilled Russia's defense with some potent spikes. Cuba evened the set
11-11. Captain "Babyface" Kazakov led the Russian resurrection, hurting
the Cubans with his tricky serve. The home squad erased a 4-point lead.
Alexsandr Volkov got a yellow card for questioning a referee's call. The game
got tense, but Russian never lost its temper again and won the set 25-20.
Two matches, two tie-breaks. Cuba started strong for the
second night in a row. After a couple of strong blockades, the home team went
ahead 5-3. Evgeny Sivozhelev tied the set with an unstoppable diagonal spike.
Cuba gave away some serves, but managed to keep their one-point lead. Yury
Berezhko made a crucial ace and Russia surpassed Cuba 8-7. The set was a
heartbreaker. Both teams had many service errors, but in the end Russia made
fewer mistakes and won the match.
Russia: Semen Poltavsky, Evgeny Sivozhelev, Alexey
Kazakov, Yury Berezhko, Alexsandr Volkov, Alexandr Yanutov (L)
Cuba: Wilfredo Leon, Osmany Camejo, Joandry Leal, Rolando
Cepeda, Roberlandy Simon, Yoandri Diaz, Kleiber Gutierrez (L).