History in the making as Montenegro seizes European League crown
A night to remember for the Balkan country which is turning into a major force to be reckoned with in team sports as their women’s handball team won silver at London 2012 while on Sunday the men’s water polo squad will be vying for bronze at the European Championships in Budapest.
The teams started off very aggressive and determined to seize their chance, as Montenegro wanted to write history whilst Greece needed to score a victory to go for an eventual golden set. The first set was very close up to 15 all where Greece scored three consecutive points to break away first. Montenegro started their chase and eventually leveled it up at 22 all and even had the chance to take the lead but could not capitalize on it. Greece did not waste the opportunity and cashed the first set by scoring three in a row for the final 22-25.
The second set followed a similar pattern but this time around Montenegro could exploit excellent serving by their superstar Milos Culafic who stood beyond the service line for seven straight rallies. This streak was eventually stopped by Greece’s team captain Mitar Tzourits at 17:12 but the home heroes could hold on to their advantage making it 22:14. Their lead stood at eight points also a few moments later (23:15) and the final outcome of this set was no longer to be questioned, with the players of Montenegro wrapping it up at 25-18.
Montenegro claimed and could keep a two-three point lead for most of the third set going up 3:1, 7:4 and 8:5 at the first technical time-out and this margin of three points was still there as the second mandatory stop was called (16:13). The home side did not lose composure, widened their lead to 22:17 and brought the set to an end at 25-18 for their provisional 2:1 lead in the match.
The home side only needed another set to write history but Greece was off to a good start in the fourth leading 4:2 and 6:3; Culafic eventually stopped Greece’s positive series making it 9 all and the home side then took the lead for the first time in the set at 11:10. Greece fought back to draw level at 11 but Montenegro responded by scoring four straight points and the advantage of the home side reached its maximum at 19:13. Some 1,000 fans at Mediteranski Sportski Centar were getting ready for the party and even though Greece reduced a bit their gap (20:18), it could not prevent Montenegro from crowning their European League campaign with a 3:1 win (25-21).
Top scorer Milos Culafic (20 points) was presented with the award for the MVP of the finals by CEV Vice President Jan Hronek.
“It was a very tough game where we started bad and lost the first set,” commented the captain of the home team, Vojin Cacic. “However, we were able to come back after this poor start. Maybe we felt a little bit the pressure and we also expected that they would not play as good as they did. After losing the first set, we improved our game and played almost without mistakes until the end. We stopped Tzourits and we won the European League.”
“I just ran out of fuel and could no longer play at the level I showed in the early stages of the match,” said Greece’s team captain Mitar Tzourits. “We are a young team and we did our best. We have to move on. Congratulations to the team of Montenegro who deserved this victory and the title.”