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24/02/2021 17:00
MILANO edge Halkbank, PRAHA stun Ziraat in first round of #CEVChallengeCupM semis
CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup 2021 - Men

Ankara/Prague, Turkey/Czech Republic, February 24, 2021. Allianz Powervolley MILANO claimed on Wednesday afternoon the first round of the men’s Challenge Cup semis as they beat Halkbank ANKARA 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-13) at Baskent Volleyball Hall.

The match was somewhat special for the young rising star of Halkbank Efe Bayram, his first time playing against an opponent from the elite Italian national league. Bayram very much hopes to play in the Italian championship later in his career. Luka Basic, on the other hand, now playing for MILANO, was especially happy to return to Turkey where his father Veljko coached the men’s national team for many years.

Tine Urnaut and Fernando Hernandez Ramos top scored for MILANO and Halkbank with 19 points apiece. Hernandez is one of two Halkbank players, the other being Alexander Berger, to have played in the Italian national league earlier in his career.

Finally, the match was quite special for Bulgarian referee Simeon Ivanov as well. He returned to Ankara after previously visiting the Turkish capital back in December – however back then he tested positive to the novel coronavirus shortly upon arrival. He was obviously happy to be back in Ankara and to officiate an international Volleyball match after observing the mandatory quarantine and recovering from the virus.

The players and coaching staff of VK Lvi PRAHA celebrate their sensational 3-0 home victory over Ziraat Bankasi ANKARA

In the other semi-final, VK Lvi PRAHA hosted Turkish standout Ziraat Bankasi ANKARA. The Czech team had gone through woes from the beginning in this year’s CEV Challenge Cup. The reward for this difficult journey was a semi-final with such an elite opponent.
Lvi started the match bravely, but thanks to Wouter ter Maat’s hard service, the visitors claimed a 4-2 lead. The Turkish team played with much quality and consistency, but the hosts did not fall behind. In the middle of the opening set, Lvi PRAHA edged ahead at 17-14; after a very close battle, the home side eventually won the first set (25-22) on a point scored by Matej Mihajlovic. Lvi PRAHA set the pace of the game from the start (8-5) until the end of the second set (25-14), which turned into a landslide victory for the hosts as the Turkish team showed more and more nervousness. The third set was a much closer affair, with a sensational, but well-deserved 3-0 victory for VK Lvi PRAHA sealed by a service error made by Ziraat Bankasi.

Tomáš Pomr, head coach of VK Lvi PRAHA: “We caught our opponents by surprise; they were surprised that they did not lead by more points in the early stages of the match, and that we could stop their biggest offensive power, Ter Maat. We were calmer and more patient; I have to thank all boys for that.”

Jakub Janouch, team captain of VK Lvi PRAHA: “The biggest difference was in our and their minds, we wanted more to play and win than they did. I have not seen the statistics yet, but according to me, we were better in all aspects of the game. I have to thank all of my teammates, not only to those who were on the court, but also to those who were outside of the court.”

Giampaolo Medei, head coach of Ziraat Bankasi: “It was our worst performance this season. We are not used to play in an atmosphere like this, but this is no excuse for the loss. The host team deserved to win. We have to change attitude for the next game and improve on all aspects of the game.”

Arslan Eksi, team captain of Ziraat Bankasi: “The biggest difference was in the service and the team’s approach. The hosts played consistently and they deserved to win.”

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News nr. 6 of 33
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Alex Berger looks forward to #CEVChallengeCupM semi-final matchups with MILANO

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