''Real Zenit is when the entire team plays, not one player''

Kazan easily got rid of the ‘favourite of the season’

''Real Zenit is when the entire team plays, not one player'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

This year the promising rivalry of the two most decorated teams of the Russian Superleague seemed to have features of the old and good close opposition. However, Belogorie had the 12 th defeat by Kazan in a row despite new Olympic champions playing in the team. Implacable Mikhailov, Panteleymonenko who is looking for his place now and Vladimir Alekno whose job is limited to the 'search for emotions'. Realnoe Vremya tells about the major match of the beginning of the volleyball season in Russia.

Belogorie wants to dethrone Zenit

Meanwhile, Zenit continues being unbeatable in the Russian Superleague for more than 50 matches in a row. If Russia has a club that is able to break the gigantic series that already starts to frighten very Kazan volleyball fans, it is Belogorie from Belgorod who used to be the same hegemon in Russia.

These two teams did not have mistakes in this season as well, they won all the three matches. Every series has an end. And it goes without saying that players of both clubs would interrupt the rival's victorious pace with great pleasure. And if Zenit has already managed to cope with quite serious opponents: Ural from Ufa, Lokomotiv from Novosibirsk and Yaroslavich as an aperitif, The Lions' calendar was much more comfortable, which allowed them to begin the season step by step. In the first three matches, Belogorie easily won Samotlor, Fakel and new Zenit from Petersburg.

After the disastrous season when The Lions were far from being medallists for the first time in five years, Belgorod decided to seriously update the team. They did not refuse such old stagers as Dmitry Musersky, Sergey Tetyukhin and Aleksey Obmochaev, of course, but let a group of 8 players go. Instead of them, they got volleyball players whose names can be overestimated in Russia with difficulty. It is enough to mention the transfer of Sergey Grankin who got a gold medal in Olympic London under Vladimir Alekno. So four 2012 Olympic champions became Belgorod players at once. The former Dynamo captain also took his teammate Konstantin Bakun with him who is known to every Russian fan. In general, Belgorod took the best fighting squad in recent years to Kazan to finally cut the series of 11 lost matches to Zenit.

''I would not say it is the biggest rival,'' Zenit's opposite hitter Maksim Mikhailov said after the game. ''The team is simply strong, this is why we are always ready to fight. I think we were ready today as well as in previous games.''

Maksim Mikhailov: ''Real Zenit is when the entire team plays, not one player''

Meanwhile, the Kazan players lacked one of the attacking leaders during training sessions, it is American-born Matthew Anderson who is still with the US national team.

I agree with our coach that we should not rely on Anderson. Real Zenit is when the entire team plays, not one player. This is why it is important that everyone join the game from the beginning. It is difficult to fight against us when we play as a team.

The players are playing a bit worse after the European Championship. I can't say the same thing about you, you play easily.

I would not say we are playing worse. Maybe there is a small emotional decline. Our coaches are all experienced and know how to prepare us for games in good shape.

Volleyball Centre continues respecting fans

And, indeed, Mikhailov really looked like as if he had not needed anybody on court. He was on the front line of the Kazan club as the first bullet and smashed at the beginning of the match, while Volvich scored points near the net as help. Nevertheless, the margin was minimal until the first break – 8-7.

''It is Maksim Mikhailov,'' Vladimir Alekno laconically explained the fantastic game of his opposite hitter who already managed to win the gold of the European Championship.

Thanks to León's cool serves, Kazan managed to go ahead by 4 points. However, Bakun performed a couple of soft 'shortened' lobs, and the guests were close in the score again. And again, when it became necessary, Artyom Volvich stood near the net as armour-plated wall and blocked shots from either Tetyukhin or Obmochaev. So the standard '+4' for the first set allowed the fans who almost completely filled the stands of the Volleyball Centre to comfortably drink beer. It seems that the Confederations Cup gave an impetus to work in this area to not only Rubin, which, by the way, decided to continue selling this beverage at Kazan Arena, but also volleyball players. Meanwhile, Kazan only augmented its supremacy with the help of León and won the set thanks to its experience – 25-19.

''It is Maksim Mikhailov,'' Vladimir Alekno laconically explained the fantastic game of his opposite hitter

Has not Panteleymonenko put down roots yet or can't he handle already?

Belgorod started the second set awesomely. Their serves willingly looked for Maksim Panteleymonenko and stubbornly attacked his zone. It worked out – 3-1 at the beginning of the set. Panteleymonenko made mistakes in defence and also did it in attack when he lost an episode and could not complete the attack in a 100% rally.

Meanwhile, leading guests Musersky and Yereschenko appeared on court with the others. The first one closed the entire net, the second one 'fired' with powerful serves by performing aces from time to time. And it was time for Panteleymonenko's small revenge when he finally hit Belogorie's half after the ball's long walking from one side of the court to another one – Zenit took the lead 12-10.

Same Maksim saved the ball in the area in a difficult situation and helped to level after several minutes of 15-16. But he already made a mistake in counterattack though was stably useful in serves.

So 35-year-old Panteleymonenko did not look well in this smoothly running machine of Alekno. And one could justify the outside hitter if not almost 42-year-old Sergey Tetyukhin who achieved results on the opposite side of the court. But Zenit's coach anyway praised Panteleymonenko after the match.

''I want him to catch the rhythm faster, I want to help him,'' Alekno said. ''I try to banish unnecessary emotions from him and me. I want him to gain shape faster.''

Classic 'swings' that appeared by the end of the set turned in favour of Zenit thanks to its leader. Wilfredo León completed the set that was not the most successful for him by two cannon shots in a free area near his line – 25-23.

Classic 'swings' that appeared by the end of the set turned in favour of Zenit thanks to its leader

The teams played evenly in the third set. But there was a one-point difference before the break. At one moment there was a small failure when Volvich deliberately played with his head because he had not seen the ball, León also was out in the next episode. Belgorod scored three points in a row and became a leader for some time. But it would be better if they did not do so. Mikhailov, Volvich, León – the same faces turned high speeds on and started to score points near the net one by one, 16-11 by the second break.

''First of all, we coped with Belgorod's serve, which is their major weapon,'' same Mikhailov explained the recipe for success. ''In addition, we made few mistakes. I think it was the key to our today's victory.''

Kazan's technique was to finish the match. However, the appearance of Obzhigalov from Belogorie on court made them be nervous. When he scored 4 points, Alekno even called his players to tell them off during the timeout. After that, León turned off the regime of 'the best player in the world' and started to crank out his traditional shots close to the sides – 25-18.

''Kazan showed a very good series of serves, this is why it was difficult to play with it,'' head coach of the guest team Gheorghe Creţu explained the total defeat. ''We lacked patience after we received a high serve. We could have continued the game at one moment instead of solving it immediately.''

The match that was so expected in the poster was the next game that Zenit had won before it began, in fact.

''Belgorod has people who will decide. Belgorod is the favourite, like I already said,'' Alekno who has just walloped the 'favourite' without chances was either cunning or serious.

Kazan's technique was to finish the match

Vladimir Alekno – VC Zenit-Kazan head coach:

The same victory like in Novosibirsk. But we played volleyball with this rival. And it is a pleasure. If there was not any satisfaction of volleyball after Novosibirsk, today it seems to become clear that we move in a right direction.

After the match with Novosibirsk, you said you did not have emotions on court. Today the score is 3-0 but it seems that you were nervous.

I also can do something for a victory (laughing). It is clear that players make a result.

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By Erik Dobrolyubov. Photo: Maksim Platonov
Reference

Championship of Russia. Round 4.

Zenit-Kazan — Belogorie (Belgorod) — 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-18)

27 September. Kazan. Volleyball Centre. 2,850 spectators.

Zenit-Kazan: Volvich (5), Panteleymonenko (9), León (17), Butko-C (4), Gutsalyuk (4), Mikhailov (18) — starting line-up, Verbov (libero), Krotkov.

Belogorie: Grankin (0), Nikolov (5), Tetyukhin-C (8), Bakun (13), Musersky (8), Yereschenko (6) — starting line-up, Obmochaev (libero), Danilov (0), Zhigalov (2), Poroshin (0).

Points — 75-60, serve— 8-7, attack— 43-31, block— 6-4, receiption— 39%-30%, mistakes— 25-26.

Sports Volleyball