Zenit Kazan on Path to Redemption
Luxembourg, December 11, 2020 – Zenit Kazan are on to make up for crashing out early in last year’s Champions League, after taking the lead in Pool C of this season’s edition, ahead of Berlin’s Recycling Volleys and Slovenia’s ACH Volley Ljubljana at the completion this week of the first leg in the German capital.
Although Zenit were emphatic in their sweep of the hosts, a second match the next day proved a bit problematic and the six-time European champions struggled against ACH Ljubljana for their 3-1 win. In fact, Zenit could have been in deep trouble, had the Slovenes capitalized on the set point at 24-23 in the fourth and forced a tiebreak.
Masterminded by MVP of the game setter Alexander Butko and powered by Maxim Mikhaylov’s match high of 14 points, Zenit left no doubt, who was in control of the critical opening match against Berlin.
The Russian side did let down a bit in their second match and dropped a set to ACH Ljubljana, but they convincingly made their point they’ll be the ones to deal with when they host the second leg in the capital of Tatarstan in February.
“We didn’t play our brand of volleyball, and Ljubljana played good volleyball,” said Mikhaylov after the game with ACH Ljubljana. “That was the main difference between us. It was important for us to win here to qualify to the quarterfinals, which we didn’t do last year.”
“With our game and approach we can be really happy today,” said ACH Ljubljana captain Gregor Ropret after the match with Zenit. “It’s a shame we didn’t play against Berlin like we did today against Zenit, because I think the result could have been very different. These are the world’s best players, who know how to play efficiently in decisive moments. This showed at the end of the sets.”
Earlier in the week, Berlin had opened the tournament with a solid sweep of ACH Ljubljana, with USA’s Benjamin Patch leading the scoring and receiving the MVP of the match award.
That result assured the Germans of second place in the standings after the first leg – though they have a mountain to climb in their quest for a ticket to the quarterfinals. Poland’s Jastrzebski Wegiel, who had to stay at home following positive Covid-19 tests within the squad, forfeited all three of their first-leg matches in Berlin.
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