Russia net 14th European crown after dramatic ‘grand finale’ with Germany

The winner is only one – and LOTTO EUROVOLLEY POLAND 2017 is no exception as Russia, impeccable in their previous five matches in the tournament, played Germany at TAURON Arena in the most anticipated match of the year to crave for the crown of European champions. They had to fight bravely in their matchup with the Germans, who played almost perfectly, but found a way to become European champions again following their 3-2 victory (25-19, 20-25, 25-22, 17-25, 15-13) – actually for the fourteenth time in history. Germany, on the other hand, achieved their greatest success in the history of the European Championship with an unprecedented silver medal – their first podium finish ever. 

Germany did not begin well, falling behind 1-3 and 2-7 after two Dmitrii Volkov’s aces. A series of faults preceded the first technical break (8-4 for Russia) and the Germans seemed to get back on track – they indeed managed to reduce their deficit to three and György Grozer blasted a couple of hard serves to give his team a tie at 14-all. Russia kept a slight one-point advantage at the second technical break but they looked tired and were far from Saturday’s perfection. Germany however also made their share of mistakes and a single block by Maxim Mikhailov propelled Russia to a 20-16 lead. A moment later Maksim Zhigalov entered the court and unleashed a blast from the service line to make it 23-18 and eventually Mikhailov slashed another spike to finish the period at 25-19.

Germany were on fire starting the second set, racing ahead to 6-2 following a Tobias Krick’s ace. More Mikhailov’s spikes missed than hit the court and it did not help Russia in erasing the deficit but they still had firepower in the middle as Ilia Vlasov’s kill made it 5-9. The Russians had multiple problems and fell down to 8-14 after another German ace from Denys Kaliberda. Grozer’s powerful spike gave his team a 16-15 lead at the second technical break. He kept punching his opponents with his team taking a commanding 22-14 advantage. After that, the Russians unleashed a long run with Egor Kliuka at the service line but the Germans were able to end the set in their favour, with Grozer’s kill providing his team with a 25-20 win.

The third period was close at last, with both teams exchanging the lead and their level getting consequently higher and higher. The Russian block returned to work and Volkov scored two important points this way (7-5). Even though he served an ace to move ahead to 10-6 and Mikhailov finally started getting things right (12-9), the advantage would not last long as Grozer’s ace tied the score at 12-all. The opposite of Hungarian origin was completely out of reach for the Russians and German serves were just magnificent – Lukas Kampa hit another ace to make it 17-16 in their favour. Frustration was all over coach Sergey Shlyapnikov’s face but his team managed to overcome the tension all-around and claim a break point to make it 23-21. Germany fought desperately to stay alive but Russia did not let go the victory in the set, with Mikhailov bringing it to reality at 25-22.

The Germans were not intimidated at all after this setback and edged ahead to 5-3 – even though Iliyas Kurkaev’s block tied the score at 5-all they stayed perseverant and bounced back to take an 8-3 lead at the first technical break. Grozer with Kaliberda were marvellous in offence and after Kampa’s ace and Krick’s kill, the German advantage increased to four points (13-9). The run did not end there, none could stop Krick in the middle and the break saw the German lead grow to six points (1610).Their triple block stopped Volkov for 21-12 and Grozer ended the lopsided set at 25-17.

The Russians looked extremely motivated at the beginning of the tiebreak with Kliuka’s single block on Grozer providing them with a break point (2-0). The Germans answered right back with their wall being insurmountable for the Russians and Grozer’s spike capped their five-point run to make the score 5-2 in their favour. However, the German opposite missed a couple of balls and the Russian lead showed up again (7-6). Everyone held the breath when Grozer fell to the floor and he could not stand back up; however, he showed he was just fine when he smashed another kill only a moment later. Mikhailov reminded of himself and Volkov raised the advantage to three points (12-9). This was too much to overcome for Germany as eventual MVP Mikhailov ended the tournament with a kill (15-13). 

György Grozer was undoubtedly the most prolific player of the final as he scored 27 points, as Mikhailov led Russia with 19. 

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