Luxembourg, May 30, 2018. Azerbaijan took revenge from Bulgaria to stay well in contention for the first place in Pool A of the 2018 CEV Volleyball Golden European League – Women. Finland made a step upward in Pool B, claiming a home victory over Croatia, while Final Four hosts Hungary won away at France in straight sets. The Czech Republic stayed as the only unbeaten team in the League after winning at Slovakia, but with Belarus winning 3-2 at Spain, the Czechs cannot be certain of a ticket to Budapest just yet…
Azerbaijan vs. Bulgaria 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 25-21, 25-21)
• The home team started strong with good reception and massive blocking. Odina Bayramova and Yelyzaveta Samadova scored six points each, while Olena Hasanova and Aynur Imanova were really good in blocking. Azerbaijan led by six points (16-10), but Bulgaria tried to change the situation – (22-20). Eventually Katerina Zhidkova closed it off at 25-20.
• The second set was dramatic. Bulgaria led 15-13, but the home team showed a brave game to level at 21-21, before the Lionesses fought on for a 25-23.
• In the third and the fourth sets the home team won by the same score – 25-21, 25-21 – and continues the fight for the first place in group.
• Katerina Zhidkova was the best scorer of the match with 20 points for Azerbaijan. Yelyzaveta Samadova added 18, while Olena Hasanova impressed with eight stuff blocks.
• Gergana Dimitrova was Bulgaria’s top scorer with 17 points.
Famil Aghayev, coach of Azerbaijan: “I am proud of our team. Yes, we play without our big stars, but each player of this squad is a star for me. The team played in Baku without head coach Faig Garayev. During the match in Sofia he had health problems and now the girls played for him. We continue the battle for the first place.”
Bayaz Aliyeva, player of Azerbaijan: “We did everything for the victory. Thank you to our fans – they are really special. Our team showed high level Volleyball and now we are happy.”
Ivan Petkov, coach of Bulgaria: “It was a very difficult game. After losing a set, we tried to find a way to change the situation. After winning the second set, we had a chance to win the game, but unfortunately we lost. We stay as the leader of the pool and start preparing for the next away match.”
Ukraine vs. Portugal 3-1 (25-19, 21-25, 25-22, 25-20)
• Ukraine comfortably claimed the first set but the course of the game changed in the second, where the hosts made many mistakes while Marta Hurst and Eduarda Duarte paced Portugal’s game.
• After taking the second set, Portugal claimed a 13-8 advantage in the third, but with the addition of Yuliya Gerasymova, the hosts responded swiftly (13-13) and eventually pulled out their second set win in the match.
• The fourth set was quite one-sided, with Nadiia Kodola, Iryna Trushkina and Karyna Denysova leading Ukraine to a 3-1 victory, which keeps them in contention for a spot in the Final Four.
Finland vs. Croatia 3-1 (25-18, 24-26, 25-15, 25-19)
• Finland took their third win in the Golden European League and are still fighting for first place in Pool B.
• The opposite player Piia Korhonen scored 23 points for Finland and she was the best scorer of the match.
• Captain Samanta Fabris was the best player of Croatia with 16 points.
• 1,452 spectators watched the match at the venue in Turku.
Tapio Kangasniemi, coach of Finland: “It was a good match for us. We have very good attack play, good setter and three, four excellent spikers, who can kill the ball. Everything is still open in the pool and in our own hands. We are still aiming to win the pool.”
Igor Lovrinov, coach of Croatia: “This is the worst game I have ever played. The referees were not good and we had difficulties in the match.”
France vs. Hungary 0-3 (23-25, 18-25, 19-25)
• Hungary remain at the top of Pool B after defeating France without a set loss. Prior to the match Hungary, Finland and Croatia had all 6 points, making it the most tight composition among all pools.
• Top scorer for Hungary, Gréta Szakmary (16 points), dominated the court as next best scorers – Bernadett Dekany (HUN), Réka Szedmak (HUN) and Héléna Cazaute (FRA) – only scored 8 points each.
• 1310 spectators gathered in Parc des Sports des Nations VANDOEUVRE-LES-NANCY to support France in their match against Hungary.
• This was the last match in the career of French international referee Loïc Queste, who took the role of 2nd referee tonight.
Félix André, coach of France: “We did not know Hungary well when we first played against them a week ago, so we changed our tactics for tonight. It actually worked well at the beginning of the match; the first set was a turning point to me. We should have won this one but my players did not follow what they were told at that moment and this resulted in a loss.”
Héléna Cazaute, player of France: “It felt like we lacked communication in the team so far as we’ve had six new players joining the team. We’ll work together and try to get there eventually.”
Odette Ndoye, player of France: “With teammates going on and off the group, it is not so simple to set our volleyball without always having to think about what to do. The rhythm was off, our game had ups and downs, but as a “veteran”, I am here to bring some composure and stability to this young team.”
Slovakia vs. Czech Republic 1-3 (25-16, 16-25, 23-25, 18-25)
• Czech Republic won their fourth match in the Golden European League, stretching their lead in Pool C with 12 points.
• Slovakia won the opening set 25-16, but Czech Republic bounced back, dominating the rest of the match.
• The first set against Slovakia was the first that Czech Republic lost in the Golden European League this far.
• Nikola Radosova (SVK) and Michaela Mlejnkova (CZE) were named best players of their teams and scored 24 and 21 points, respectively.
Marco Fenoglio, coach of Slovakia: “I am disappointed with the fourth set, because we had a chance to lead 7-1, but we made a mistake, which resulted in more errors made on our side. We have a big problem with our side-out, we do not play like a team and we need more training. I am not satisfied with winning one set, because we lost the overall game. I want to win, not lose all the time. We need to understand that we are here to win and to make sacrifices. My team needs more confidence, they do not fight and the only way to improve it is by working hard.”
Nikola Radosova, player of Slovakia: “The first set was good from our side, we began well because we were motivated after three losses. We had good moments, but we also faced bad ones and this is our problem. We need to play better if we want to win.”
Zdenek Pommer, coach of Czech Republic: “This match was more difficult than the one in Prague a few days ago. Slovakia played much better, but we were dominating in block. We had two actions when we were not as concentrated and through our own faults we put ourselves under pressure. But we won in the end and now we have Belarus in our minds. We have to be prepared for that.”
Barbora Purchartova, captain of Czech Republic: “The first set happened so fast, so it was hard to come back to the match. But we started to be more aggressive in attack and we made it to the happy end. We still have a chance to reach the Final Four, but we need to win in Belarus, as well as defeat them at home. Our minds are focused on that now.”
Spain vs. Belarus 2-3 (23-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-19, 9-15)
• Belarus avenged last Saturday’s home loss to Spain in a thrilling match.
• Their block was key towards a first-set win.
• Spain delivered a superb performance in the fourth set, thus extending the match to a tiebreaker.
• Maria Segura top scored for the home side with 25 points.
• Hanna Kalinouskaya-Guengoer and Tatsiana Markevich registered four blocks each for Belarus.
• With this victory, Belarus have moved up to second place in Pool C, behind the still unbeaten team of the Czech Republic.
Jessica Rivero, player of Spain: “We made a lot of mistakes. We were improving our performance little by little. The end of the match was very close.”
Hanna Kalinouskaya-Guengoer, player of Belarus: “We worked very hard for this win. All the teams in this pool are very tough rivals. We want to fight until the end for our opportunities to finish first in the pool.”