Sofia, Bulgaria, June 2, 2018 - Serbia squeezed through another five set encounter as they downed Russia 25-20, 23-25, 23-25, 25-22, 12-15. Drazen Luburic starred again with 29 points, 28 of which were attack winners. That takes him to 75 for the competition, and fourth position in the best scorers table.
The Balkan side trailed Russia 13-27 in the head-to-head at world level prior to the match – but have now won the last four encounters. Supporting the main man Luburic was middle-blocker Srecko Lisinac and outside hitter Marko Ivovic – both with 13 points – who stepped up at crucial times to steer the victory the way of their team.
While Russia’s coach Sergei Shliapnikov stuck largely with the same team for the duration, Nikola Grbić of Serbia mixed things up a lot more making full use of his 14 man squad.
Russia have now lost to both Poland and Serbia in the Volleyball Nations League, despite the best efforts of Dmitriy Muserskiy who scored 23 points from the position of middle blocker (17 spikes, 5 blocks, 1 serve). Three others reached double figures against Serbia, namely: Egor Kliuka (18), Konstantin Bakun (17) and Ilia Vlasov (10).
Serbia may have taken the win, but Russia did outscore the Balkan side 108-107 points across the match. However Volleyball is a game of sets and Serbia took the three they needed to bring their third win in the Volleyball National League and now sit in 7th position with 3 wins and 2 loses.
Russia has an identical record, but as they have won two of their matches in straight sets they are 4th in the table. Both will be looking to improve of their positions further tomorrow when Serbia faces Australia and Russia takes on Bulgaria.
The game started, as it would eventually continue, with a big contest in the middle of the net. Both teams knew that if they could win that battle it would go a long way to winning the match. The score stayed close throughout the first set with Dmitriy Muserskiy making the difference towards the end both in attack and defence to extend a lead 23-19. From here Russia never looked back and took the set to twenty points.
The second was similar to the first, however Serbia were able to stay with the 2012 Olympic Champions untill the end. At 23-23 it was the Balkan middle star Srecko Lisinac who attacked first tempo and brought up set point for his team. Serving it himself, he then defended the Russian attack before the Serbian captain Marko Ivovic hammered it down the line past Igor Kobzar. In a clear difference from the first set, Serbia were putting nearly 50% of their serves down to position 5 and it made the difference.
Buoyed after levelling the match, Serbia attacked the third set and established a considerable lead by the half way point, but back came Russia to within two with Egor Kliuka scoring points from seemingly impossible positions. Serbia rallied again and just managed to keep the two point lead required to take the set. On set point it was an attack by Drazen Luburic that resulted in the ball coming back but leaving Russia completely out of system, so when the Serbian block got their hands on the ball there was no-one around to bring the ball up again.
The fourth was another close affair with both teams knowing the match was on the line, however back to the form of the first set it was Russia who pulled ahead when it mattered winning the set off a hammer attack from Anton Karpukhov.
Having gone to five sets the day before with Bulgaria, Serbia started the more confident and fantastic defence by libero Neven Majstorovic brought a continuation hit for Konstantin Bakun where he overcooked it and Serbia led 8-6 at the turn around.
A monster block by Petar Krsmanovic straight out of the interval started to bring the finish line into view for Serbia, however Russia bounced back again to lead at 12-11 but when Muserskiy over passed a free ball it all changed again. At 12-12 Drazen Luburic served an ace, and it was his powerful serve that forced a mistake in the Russian attack of Karpukhov to bring up match point. Another big serve by Luburic swung the rally the way of Serbia and in the end Srecko Lisinac hit a winner in transition to snatch the match for his team.