Date: 12 May 2018, 22:00
Source: CEV
View: 279
Download with PDF
Zenit KAZAN rout Block Devils to vie for sixth CL crown

The second semi-final of the #CLF4Kazan is a repeat of last year’s gold medal match in Rome – where Zenit KAZAN beat Sir Colussi Sicoma PERUGIA 3-0 to claim an all-time record fifth Champions League crown and silence 11,500 fans in attendance at Palalottomatica in Rome. The Russian and Italian reigning national champions exchanged roles – with Zenit being the hosts and PERUGIA the visitors this time around, but the development of the match was similar to what happened 12 months ago. Zenit KAZAN were clearly the dominant side in this fixture, eventually sealing a 3-0 victory (25-22, 25-20, 25-20) and on Sunday will vie for a record sixth overall and fourth in a row Champions League title against Italy’s Cucine Lube CIVITANOVA.  

A sell-out crowd of 7,000 passionate fans came together for the second semi-final featuring hosts Zenit KAZAN and last year’s silver medal winners Sir Colussi Sicoma PERUGIA. The ‘Team of Gladiators’, as Zenit KAZAN are known, caught a very promising start to their title-defence campaign on home soil as they rushed to an early 6-2 lead much to the delight of the Russian supporters. The five-time Champions League winners did not seem to feel the pressure resulting from playing at home. After a timeout, PERUGIA fought back to 5-6 before an ace by Leon prompted the first technical break at 8-5 for Zenit. The ‘Block Devils’ from Italy did not lose composure and edged ahead at 10-9 but the hosts responded swiftly to make it 13-11 in their favour. In a rollercoaster of actions and emotions, PERUGIA and Zenit KAZAN put on a show with one main character standing out – Wilfredo Leon. Two aces in a row from the Cuban-born star moved the score to 20-16 for KAZAN, with the home side holding on to this advantage to claim the first set 25-22.

The invincible Russian ‘armada’ continued their dominant run in the early stages of the second set (5-2, 8-5). The quality and intensity of Zenit’s game was too much to stand even for the newly crowned Italian national champions, with the hosts enjoying a five-point advantage halfway through the set (12-7) to confirm their status of pre-favourites in this matchup. Leon was on a class of his own and another two aces of the former Cuban wunderkind moved the charts to 16-10 in favour of Zenit KAZAN. However, next to Leon, the entire well-oiled Russian machine worked just smoothly and this eventually resulted in a comfortable 25-20 win for the five-time CL winners. 

With their back against the wall, PERUGIA had no other option than to fight until the end and so they did, first by storming to a 3-1 lead in the third set. Leon’s physical and technical abilities were nevertheless an asset the Italians could not match. There was little PERUGIA could do to stop the spikes of the Cuban-born outside hitter and despite the fight they put up, the Italians found themselves trailing 14-16 at the second technical timeout. The Russian fans started their party even well before the match finished since they obviously sensed how the game was going to end – with setter Alexander Butko sealing a comprehensive 3-0 victory with a nice second touch tip over the net.

Wilfredo Leon – who else? – top scored in the match with 19 points, including six aces, followed by Maxim Mikhailov with 18. Aleksandar Atanasijevic was the only player of PERUGIA to finish the match in double digits, scoring 12 times.