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04/12/2020 00:25
Nimir solves mystery of missing setters
CEV Champions League Volley 2021 - Men

Luxembourg, December 4, 2020. The mystery of the missing setters was solved in sensational fashion this week in Trento as Nimir Abdel-Aziz stepped in not only to successfully distribute the play after both Trentino Itas' regular setters Simone Giannelli and substitute Lorenzo Sperotto had to isolate at home in coronavirus quarantine, but also to massively contribute in serving (as well as in attacking and blocking), leading the Italian side to the top of the Pool E standings in the men's CEV Champions League.

The deciding match was going to be, in theory, on the opening day against reigning Russian champions Lokomotiv Novosibirsk. And indeed, the visitors seemed like they were running away with the game and begin to set themselves up nicely for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Trentino were with their backs against the wall after they found themselves two sets down. But then Nimir and his teammates stepped up to the challenge, clawing their way back to force a deciding set.

In the surreal tie-break Nimir stepped up to the service line at 4-2 and served a total of 11 times (including three straight aces) taking the match to its end, as Lokomotiv collapsed.

At the end of that remarkable night, the 28-year-old Dutch internationalhad amassed 6 aces, 3 blocks and 3 kills (3/6) for a total of 13 points, making this 'setter' the second-best scorer of his side after the 20 of Dick Kooy.

"It was very painful," said Lokomotiv's outside hitter Marko Ivovic of Serbia. "I don't wish on anyone to lose like this."

Trentino, three-time European champions, went on to survive a bit of a scare against the Czech Republic's VK CEZ Karlovarsko but managed a four-set win, before smashing Germany's VfB Friedrichshafen in straight sets (even without the help of injured Kooy) to find themselves top of the standings after the first leg of the pool, while extending their record in the Champions League this season to 7-0.

"Especially during this difficult period for everyone, this victory means so much to us," said Trentino's Ricardo Lucarelli of Brazil after the match against Friedrichshafen.

Meanwhile, Lokomotiv, themselves struggling to come up with a cohesive lineup, never really recovered from the opening day's defeat and also fell to Friedrichshafen the next night - though they did eventually pick up the pieces and beat Karlovarsko in four.

Linus Weber gets the better of Lokomotiv captain Sergey Savin on the net as he guides Friedrichshafen to a solid win that keeps the German side in the race for the quarterfinals of the Champions League, ahead of the second leg of Pool E.

Midway through their second Champions League appearance, Karlovarsko are still seeking their first win in the ultimate continental club competition. But they have come away from Trento with a credit of three sets (one from each of their opponents this week) - their first in the Champions League.

Trentino libero Salvatore Rossini attempts a bit of defensive footwork as the ball smashes onto the scorer's laptop during the match against Friedrichshafen.

Trentino are now well-poised for a ticket to the quarterfinals, though they still need to keep hosts of the second leg, Friedrichshafen at bay - and surely Lokomotiv should come back much improved next February on the shores of Lake Constance.

For further information on Pool E, click here.

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