An explosive Zaytsev leads Italy to opening day win over strong Russian side
Kyoto, Japan, November 19, 2013 - The 2013 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Grand Champions Cup kicked off on Tuesday, with six teams – including four continental champions – converging on the city of Kyoto. Russia and Italy kicked things off in the first match at Kyoto Prefectural Gymnasium, in a battle of European powerhouses. Overall the Italians made less mistakes than the Russians in this match, taking it 3–1 (28–26, 25–20, 19–25, 27–25).
Italy was led by the high-flying Ivan Zaytsev with 20 points, supported by Filippo Lanza who had 13. Russia’s Dmitriy Muserskiy had 17 hard-hitting scores for Russia in a losing effort.
Despite not having much time to work with their coach prior to the competition, Italy looked sharp early with stuff blocks from Lanza and Emanuele Birarelli early to frustrate the Russians, jumping ahead 5–1. But Russia eventually put together a good run mid-set to draw within one at 15–14, Alexey Spiridonov winning a tough joust at the net. The towering Muserskiy would later give his team a literal kickstart, saving a point with his foot to help Russia tie at 20–20. Spiridonov’s fifth score gave Russia a set point, but Italy’s Dragan Travica brought his side back with an ace, and a Zaytsev (six points in the set) block stuff stole the first set for the Italians 28–26 on their third set point.
The second set again saw Italy more composed than their counterparts early, edging ahead 9–5 after some costly Russian errors. Again Russia stuck close, pulling within one at 10–9. But the Italians jumped back ahead just as quick powered by the fierce attacking Filippo Lanza (five points in the set) whose hard spike gave his side a commanding 21–15 lead. Maxim Mikhaylov brought some spark of the bench for Russia, but Italy stuck it out, taking the second set 25–20.
But Italy appeared to lose momentum in the third, as strong serving from Nikolay Apalikov put Russia ahead, his ace making it 12–7. Strong attacking from Mikhaylov and Dmitriy Ilinykh helped Russia keep their lead, their defenders also managing to keep an aggressive Zaytsev under wraps. Another ace from Sergey Grankin gave Russia set point at 24–18, and from there they would take the third set 25–19, but still down two sets to one.
But ultimately it was Italy who would make less mistakes, and with a sensational block by their captain Emanuele Birarelli on the explosive Mikhaylov, followed by a hard Lanza spike, the Italians were way ahead 10–3. Russia’s Pavlov countered with strong attacking of his own from the wing, but two scores from Italy’s Thomas Beretta off the bench had Russia on the brink 20–14. But Russia showed resilience, scoring six straight to tie at 20–20. But it proved a little too late, as Zaytsev kicked his attack into high gear, scoring a pair of critical points late, to help his side win 27–25, 3 sets to 1.