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12/02/2014 19:33
Russian giant Zenit KAZAN routs Italian vice champions to claim Final Four ticket
2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League - Men

Kazan, Russia, February 12, 2014. On Wednesday Russia’s Zenit KAZAN routed Copra Elior PIACENZA in straight sets (25-21, 25-20, and 25-22) as it had done also last week in Italy to qualify to the Final Four Tournament of the CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League for the fourth consecutive season. The players mentored by Vladimir Alekno will be vying for their third title in Ankara – where the Final Four is set to take place through March 22-23 – after they already topped the charts in 2008 and 2012.    
After their straight victory from last week in Italy, Zenit KAZAN needed to win another two sets from this return game to book their ticket to the Final Four. The hosts from Tatarstan achieved this goal quite comfortably even though this time PIACENZA could rely on their team captain Hristo Zlatanov who had missed the previous match due to injury. Zenit set the pace right from the go and could lead the way at 18:13 after the second technical time-out; however, PIACENZA fought back to reduce their gap to a minimum before Zenit cashed the opening set (25-21) on excellent blocks by Alexander Volkov who twice stopped Frenchman Kevin Le Roux.

Libero Alexey Verbov and home star Maxim Mikhailov displayed world-class volleyball in the second set thereby quickly turning the task of PIACENZA into a mission impossible. Mikhailov regularly found a way through the Italian block and the defense line of PIACENZA could do nothing to stop that storm. Copra Elior found some help in their Cuban-born middle-blocker Robertlandy Simon but with a stellar performance behind the service line Zenit KAZAN pocketed also the second set (25-20) and this way also their ticket to the Final Four.

The third set did not have any impact on the outcome of this double header and therefore both head coaches decided to rest their best players and field their second lines. This did not change the course of the game with Zenit KAZAN imposing their rule again to cash another straight victory and keep an immaculate record in the Playoffs with 12 sets won and zero lost.

Maxim Mikhailov top scored in the end with 17 points for the home side. “We knew that coming here PIACENZA had nothing to lose and therefore they would take many risks” he commented after the match. “It was a tough game but every time the score got closer we managed to change our pace and bring it home so that in the end we won in straight sets. Tonight we also enjoyed a great support from many fans and therefore we could not afford losing this game. Starting from tomorrow, we will start our preparations for the Final Four.”

“I am pretty happy with the way my players performed tonight and very grateful to the fans that really galvanized our team tonight” added head coach Vladimir Alekno with a reference to the 4,100 supporters that were in attendance at the St. Petersburg hall.

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the match

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