Champions League matches as Alexey Verbov’s preparation as Zenit’s coach

Champions League matches as Alexey Verbov’s preparation as Zenit’s coach Photo: Roman Kruchinin (

Zenit just did not notice any opposition in the second Champions League match (3-0) but afforded itself an impromptu substitution of the head coach during the match. A two-fold excellence in all sets, helplessness and satisfaction of the game of the Paris players' coach and players of Zenit-Kazan who already got bored in the Champions League. Realnoe Vremya tells what else surrounded the match of Kazan players against the French champion.

Nobody envies Paris players

A warm and kind reception is not the story of Kazan and Paris Volley because the weather anomalies that are taking place in the central part of Russia for several weeks are able to puzzle not only the guests from southwestern Europe but very residents of our places. It seems that nobody knows how to explain the ups and downs from -2 to -30°C and vice versa within a couple of days. Unlike Paris players, Zenit players don't complain. They experienced more extreme conditions before the second Champions League in Surgut where Vladimir Alekno's guys won another trophy – the Russian Cup where the temperature was -50°C. So, having got home, they were like in a resort. And the cup (I mean the Cup) they brought obviously added some positive attitude.

However, Paris players did not look like a big problem for Zenit without additional factors. The first match against German Friedrichshafen was not the point. The reigning champions of France are taking the eighth position in not very strong French Championships. The thing is that after a sensational victory in Pro A, other teams stole the champion squad of Paris Volley. Slovenian opposite Mitja Gasparini who became the second best attacker of the French Championships departed to Korea. Head setter Davide Saitta joined Montpellier, and experienced libero Markus Steuerwald returned to Friedrichshafen (anyway, he will meet Zenit). Outside hitter Nicholas Hoag moved to Italy and is playing for Milano.

Paris player did not look like a big problem for Zenit

Their substitutions Thiago Sens and Willian Franco, Czech outside hitter Kamil Baranek as well as Portuguese setter Nuno Pinheiro were trying to continue to do the job decently. However, they were not very successful at the moment. It is bitter to lose against Germans 2-0 in the decisive set, Frenchmen scored only one point. And a victory in Kazan could recover Paris Volley's fight for not only play-off but also the first place in the group.

When a loss of leaders means nothing

However, Zenit also had problems while preparing for the second match in the Champions League. The attack of Kazan players without Matthew Anderson and bright recruit and Russian leader of the team Artyom Volvich was very simplified.

To tell the truth, it was not felt on the court. Kazan players ended the set thanks to the power of León, who was inspired by the presence of his parents, Mikhailov's powerful serves and Andrey Aschev's outside hits – 25-17. León's support did not limit to his parents only. A fan sector with Cuban flags was in the stands.

How to lose 10 points but remain glad

Nothing changed in the second set. If French players scored points, they did it because of the host team's relax when Sivozhelez's serves were not successful. In the next attack, the Cuban served and powerfully hit the floor. Butko performed a great game as well.

''We prepare for the Champions League in a special way, more than for the domestic championships,'' Igor Kobzar did not understand the level of their rivals. ''It turns out that there is no any strong opposition in Turkey and here against Paris. I hope we will have it, and games will be more tense. So game will be more interesting for fans.''

So a two-fold excellence appeared on the scoreboard by the break – 16-8. They appeared on the court, and Gutsalyuk immediately blocked Franco, here was a margin of 10 points – 18-8. Butko prepared masterpieces in serves. The margin became 12. Here Alekno started to change the squad. Kobzar appeared, Zemchenok occupied his post. And the new team confidently completed the job – 25-15. People just could not look at Paris Volley's coach Dorian Rougeyron. He was rushing hither and thither, constantly gnawed his fingernails and nervously looked at the court. Here it became known that he did not know what to do with the unbearable power on the other side of the net.

If French players scored points, they did it because of the host team's relax

''It was rather challenging for us to play against Zenit,'' said the French coach after the match. ''If you take the French League, there are no teams demonstrating similar mastery in terms of serves and reception, but we still could have played better.''

When Champions League is a place to prepare Verbov

Igor Kobzar served at the beginning of the last set. Paris players' reception did not help them three times – 3-0.

''The thing is not that we were surprised at how easily we played in the first two sets,'' Igor Kobzar shared after the game. ''We know that this team is playing well at home. We played with our fans, prepared for a good job and did our best to win such a victory.''

Only Ardo Kreek was one of the few players who tried to oppose something to Kazan when the score doubled. The French team broke up when they violated the positions twice and gave that points to leading Kazan players without any reason. Belgian referee Mary Catherine Boulanger mercilessly showed the guest team where they stood wrongly. The scoreboard of the Volleyball Centre showed 16-8 again by the second break.

The guest team insinuated a presence of some hope when the White-Blues lost their focus and had two unsuccessful serves. In this case, Alekno also had a timeout in reserve to tell off his players.

''In general, despite the state the guys were in after the victory in the Russian Cup, I am glad,'' Vladimir Alekno told with a cunning squint after the final whistle. ''We played the first two sets well, everybody was focused. The players who appeared in the third set need a mobility. They should clearly understand they are not there because I wanted to favour them. They must help the team, that's it.''

''In general, I am glad,'' Vladimir Alekno told after the final whistle.

French players revived a bit and even managed to increase their limit of points in one set. When the score was 23-20, Alekno did not hide his discontent, took time out and went to drink a glass of water. It seemed it was part of the plan for a temporary transmission of the coach's power to Alexey Verbov whose teacher is the best coach of the country. He is to occupy the post in the next match while Alekno will be having a short break.

By Erik Dobrolyubov. Photo: Roman Kruchinin (

Zenit (Kazan) — Paris Volley (Paris) — 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-21)