CEV Champions League first round completed with plenty of world-class matches
As they had just returned from Brazil where they had won silver at the Club World Champs, Lokomotiv delighted their home fans with a classy performance though they still felt tired after a long journey back to Siberia.
Italy’s Diatec TRENTINO – a three-time winner of the CEV Volleyball Champions League and a bronze medallist from the Club World Champs in Betim – was in a similar position as they also had only a few hours to recover from the jet-lag and get ready to play Germany’s champions BERLIN Recycling Volleys. The young guys around Bulgarian superstar Tsvetan Sokolov showed once more the attitude and willingness to fight they have become known for as they could cope with the fatigue to seize the night with a 3:1 victory.
The real match of the week was the “clash of the titans” starring Italy’s Lube Banca Marche MACERATA and Russia’s standout Zenit KAZAN. Actually the hosts from Italy dominated the scene on Tuesday night as they routed their opponents from Tatarstan in straight sets in a demonstration of power and world-class Volleyball. Italy’s representatives in the competition made a clean sweep of their first-round matches as the winners of the 2013 CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup, Copra Elior PIACENZA, also had something to celebrate with their first CL match in five years ending in a 3:1 home victory over Slovenia’s ACH Volley LJUBLJANA.
When it comes to other teams that have asserted their intention to make the final four scheduled for March 2014, Russia’s Belogorie BELGOROD claimed their 100th victory in the European Cups by downing Noliko MAASEIK in straight sets to celebrate their comeback in Europe’s elite club competition after six years.
Though a rookie in the CEV Volleyball Champions League, Turkey’s Halkbank ANKARA did also show what they are capable of after signing, specifically for this campaign, international stars like, for instance, Matey Kaziyski and Osmany Juantorena. Halkbank ANKARA edged JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel of Poland 3:1 but more is to come as the group has been together only for a very short time before the start of the season. With the only exception of JASTRZEBSKI, the first round of play was a good one for Polish teams as Asseco Resovia RZESZOW and Zaksa KEDZIERZYN-KOZLE easily claimed their opening matches cruising to straight wins against PARIS Volley and Galatasaray ISTANBUL. The only major sensation of the opening round was caused by Energy Investments LUGANO as the Swiss underdogs made a night to remember out of their first CL appearance cruising to a tie-break victory over Turkey’s Arkas IZMIR.
The first round of the women’s competition was highlighted by a series of straight victories claimed by some of the teams that are supposed to battle for the crown at the end of the season. Dinamo KAZAN of Russia routed Volero ZÜRICH, Eczacibasi VitrA ISTANBUL did the same with Czech champions Agel PROSTEJOV as did also Azerbaijan’s Igtisadchi BAKU and RC CANNES of France in their ties with Crvena Zvezda BEOGRAD and SCHWERINER SC.
Russia’s Dinamo MOSCOW had to fight a little bit more to get the upper hand in four sets as they played Italy’s champions RebecchiNMeccanica PIACENZA while on Thursday 2013 silver medallists Rabita BAKU needed a tie-break to finally edge Russian rookies Omichka OMSK REGION. In what people dubbed the “group of death” right after the DOL held in Vienna last June 28, Azeryol BAKU and Italy’s Prosecco Doc-Imoco CONEGLIANO had to fight for five sets before they got past Unendo Yamamay BUSTO ARSIZIO and Galatasaray Daikin ISTANBUL, i.e. the teams that had finished the 2013 edition in third and fourth place.
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