Z People go to Roma: Zenit-Kazan walloped Belogorie and reached Euroleague Final Four

Zenit-Kazan reached Volleyball Champions League Final Four

The victory in the first match of Final Six over Zenit's major opponent was won by the reigning club champion confidently. But Kazan volleyball fans were anxious till the end of the return match. The score of 3-1 showed that the Belogorie Lions were able to change the course of the match that started badly. They were better than Alekno's players at serve. Their trump card Yereschenko tortured the champion's defence well. And the very mentor of the Kazan players who was glad that the first match was real, not fake as it happens in all season matches where rivals just were destroyed by Kazan, has questions. For instance, for León despite 17 points scored by the Cuban. In a word, the anxiety lived for 10 days, but everything ended well for Zenit at Cosmos Arena in Belgorod (a 3-1 victory). The team is going to go to the Eternal City, to Roma, to Final Four. Famous TV commentator and permanent author of Realnoe Vremya Aleksandr Norden tells the details.

Z People ensured a golden set

Much turns on the first set of a return match: those who will show power and determination to reach the end will get a big psychological advantage. The line-up of the Kazan team repeated what Alekno fielded in Saint Petersburg. The host team had changes, high Danilov and Teremenko played from the beginning. The Lions scored the first two points thanks to the serve of the latter and took the lead – 4-1. Anderson from the guest team woke up first. He scored the first points for his team. Then the guests went ahead 4-5 when the American outside hitter started to serve. Zenit started the first technical timeout leading with a score of 6-8.

It was typically men's volleyball from the beginning – fast, strong, with powerful serves. The supremacy of the guest team became clear – 10-13, though their athletic data was not better than that of the host team headed by ''tower'' Musersky of 219 cm of height. Khtey and Volvich exchanged mistakes after accurate serves. When the tripe block of Belogorie stopped León, and Mikhailov made a mistake, the score levelled – 14-14. The guest team was one step further before the second compulsory timeout.

The supremacy of the guest team became clear – 10-13, though their athletic data was not better than that of the host team

The close game lasted till the end of the set. Zenit went ahead, the host team caught up with it – 19-19. Like at the beginning of the set, Anderson's serves were successful when León and Volvich blocked Musersky. And after the next ball, Mikhailov performed a successful shot without opposition. The lead in favour of Kazan became considerable – 19-22, which made the host team's head coach Kosarev took first timeout. The Belogorie coach fielded Zhigalov to serve. And despite Butko's last-ditch attempt to save the ball with a football kick, Mikhailov rescued the Kazan players – 21-23. León took the baton from Maksim and helped his mates to reach match point. With a cannon ace, Mikhailov did not let the intrigue come about and won the first set 22-25. So Alekno's players ensured a golden set at worst.

Zenit deprives The Lions from ticket to Roma

Kosarev sent Podlesnykh to play from the beginning of the second set, which seemed the host team to be decisive, to provide more mobility on the back line. León joined warmed-up Mikhailov. His ''nails'' made traditionally noisy Cosmos Arena calm down. Belogorie mainly attacked through Musersky, but the manoeuvres of Tetyukhin were revealed by the guest team without problems. León from Kazan scored one in two points of his team, but Danilov's attacks and an ace by Tetyukhin guaranteed The Lions a minimum advantage by the first technical pause. The attempts of Belogorie to increase the margin were not successful, though they fought for every point. Obmochaev flew along the back line, the block coped with Mikhailov and León's some shots. But the great number of mistakes than its rival destroyed all efforts of Belogorie.

So the person whose surname can be translated as ''Lion'' (León) divested The Lions of the ticket to Final Four

However, the nervous tension affected the iron gladiators too. Mikhailov and Volvich made mistakes in serve and Butko – on the front line. And the host team took the lead 14-12. The confidence of the Belogorie coach in Podlesnykh who started to make more mistakes surprised. Meanwhile, Kosarev kept Yereschenko who played great (81%) in attack in the first set on the bench, though if Belogorie had lost this set of the fight for vitality, there would not be any sense in the trump card in the next set.

Anyway, the coaching staff of Belogorie believed in those fighters who went to great lengths on the court. The Lions had two points more due to huge efforts – 18-16. The most curious fight for a point took place at that moment when Musersky blocked all shots of the Kazan forwards alone, but, in the end, the guests scored the point after a curious bound by Mikhailov.

Belogorie had not backing space but had three points more – 20-17. Zenit began its comeback stopping Danilov's serve. Then León joined the action with his cannon serve. Leading with one point (21-20), Kosarev's coaching staff took timeout, but the Cuban giant hit Obmochaev with his next ace. The score equalised. Mikhailov completed the next attack of Kazan great – 21-22. The Belogorie coach took his last timeout, and after two mistakes of León and Kobzar (in serve), there was a tie – 23-23. The set was not usual (24-24), and after Tetyukhin's pass, Danilov reached match point – 25-24. Anderson won one point, Mikhailov did it for the second point, but Musersky did not reach the corner of the court in serve. Mikhailov made a slip after him in serve. And mortal swings continued for Belgorod. Playing another match point, the Kazan pushed Belogorie to the edge of the abyss thanks to León's serve (29-28). In the next play, the awesome Cuban (with block by Butko) completed the fight – 28-20 and 0-2 on aggregate. Belogorie lost even theoretical chances to return 1-3. So the person whose surname can be translated as ''Lion'' (León) divested The Lions of the ticket to Final Four. Now Zenit will have to fight against not ''wild animals'' in the semi-final on the court of the makeshift Coliseum but ''German barbarians'', may Berlin players whom Zenit knows well from the previous Final Four not take offence.

Zenit won the series beforehand and the next sets on the Cosmos court had just a statistical importance

Victory at Cosmos after Cosmonautics Day

After the wins in two sets, Zenit won the series beforehand and the next sets on the Cosmos court had just a statistical importance. The coaches made substitutions in the squads, which were natural in that case. Kazan had a big margin from the beginning of the third set – they led 2-9 and 8-15. Belgorod should be paid tribute because they found strength to approach the rival closely – 14-15. But Vladimir Alekno and his guys were not going to stay too long in Belgorod.

Having flown and sparkled, it was time to go home from Cosmos and prepare for the next flight. This time to eternity or, more precisely, Eternal City. It was symbolic that Kazan captain Andrey Aschev put the lid on the match: 20-25 in the third set and 0-3 in total. Rome is in line.

By Aleksandr Norden. Photo: zenit-kazan.com