CEV, Luxembourg. Turkey have one foot in the Finals after seizing a 3-1 victory over the inspired hosts in Pool C in Skopje. On Wednesday, the players coached by Nedim Özbey secured their second win in the first of two round-robin tournaments that are taking place in the Macedonian capital. Austria and Bulgaria locked horns on day 2 of the action in Pool B in what was the first match for the Bulgarian Lions at the Qualifier in Hadera, Israel. Led by their captain Tsvetan Sokolov, the Bulgarian Lions started their campaign with a 3-1 victory.
Turkey outperformed Team MKD on Wednesday. The Macedonian players tried to give their best, led by an inspired captain Nikola Gjorgiev, but this wasn’t enough to stop the Turks who controlled the game during most of the time with their performance on block and at serve being the key to the victory.
• Turkey started better in the matchup while the hosts were trying to keep up with their opponents’ rhythm but let too many errors in reception affect their game. Turkish star, Adis Lagumdzija was the best on the court in these moments
• The answer from the hosts came right after the first set when they tied the score. Macedonian captain Nikola Gjorgiev was a true leader for his teammates making it difficult for the Turks on reception thanks to good serve and nice job on spiking.
• It was a “wake up call” for the favourites in Pool C. In the next two sets Turkey took total control over the game not letting any more surprises and with excellent play on block and with a total of 11 aces in the match, grabbed the win.
• Adis Lagumdzija scored 18 points for his team’s victory, while Nikola Gjorgiev became Top Scorer of the match for the home side recording 18 points as well.
“We managed to play our game today. We served very well and we blocked very well, too. It was really important for us to take the three points. We hope that we will continue to perform well and we will finish first in the pool,” Yi?it Gülmezoglu, Player of Turkey stated.
“Turkey were better than us on the serve. That was the big difference in the match. We performed very well in the other elements of the game. To save our chances for qualifaction, we need to take three points in tomorrow’s game with Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Gjorgi Gjorgiev, setter of Team MKD said.
Both Austria and Bulgaria fought hard for each ball following each other in the score many times, keeping the intrigue alive. However, the Bulgarian Lions showed better nerves in the decisive moments, and despite a close score, grabbed the win at 3-1, starting their qualifying campaign in Pool B on a positive note. Bulgaria performed better in attack and at the serving line while Austria seemed to have found the key to success through their performance on the block in the second set but couldn’t get the best out of the situation.
• Alexander Tusch and Niklas Kronthaler on the serve made it difficult for Bulgaria’s reception in the beginning but overall both teams were delivering a good performance. Smart play by Martin Atanasov and two aces by Todor Skrimov helped Bulgaria take the opening set.
• Austria took control afterwards with excellent play on block (5 in the second set) but weren’t able to keep the same rhythm later on.
• Although Bulgaria had problems in reception, the players around Silvano Prandi took again control over the game and in the next two sets showed great skills on attack and serve.
• For the Bulgarian team, star Tsvetan Sokolov recorded 17 points, while for Austria Niklas Kronthaler scored 20 times.
On Thursday, Bulgaria meet the hosts from Israel (who already have one 0-3 loss in the tournament, from Austria), while the players of Radovan Gacic have a rest day.
“We played a very tough game against a strong opponent who played very well. They showed great skills in attack but we had to win, and I am glad that we managed to do so. We had problems in the second set, we made a lot of mistakes but we could find the balance, and improve our game in attack and on serve. Winning is important, but this is only our first victory. We have another three difficult games ahead and we need to improve our game. I am sure we will do it,” Silvano Prandi, Head coach of Team Bulgaria said.
“Austria was a very strong opponent. To us, it was mandatory to win and this put pressure on us, while Austria did not have any pressure. We are a new, young team. Tomorrow is another day, and we will have another challenge to overcome. We meet Israel and I believe we will play better than we did today. Anyway, I always prefer to win even when playing not so good than to lose after delivering a good performance,” Tsvetan Sokolov, Captain of Team Bulgaria added.
Radovan Gacic, head coach of Team Austria: “I am happy with today’s performance, although we could have taken at least one point from this match. In any case, the dynamics of our game and the way we designed our game plan worked just fine. We saw that we could keep up with one of the best teams in the world. Of course, it is clear that there is still a difference between playing and winning, but today we were close to taking a point. Therefore, we are on the right track. Next time, we want to seize that point or even a victory.”
Maximilian Landfahrer, outside hitter of Austria: “We obviously had our chances of taking a point or even winning the match but we have to be happy with the performance that we delivered. It was of a very high quality from us and against a very strong team. We held up against it very well, and we definitely deserved a point.”