Dinamo Moscow v Lokomotiv Novosibirsk and Kuzbass Kemerovo v Zenit Saint Petersburg were lined up for Friday’s semifinal fixtures as action in the two men’s Superliga Final Six tournament pools wrapped up in Moscow on Wednesday. Russian powerhouse Zenit Kazan lost two tie-breakers to drop out of medal contention and miss out on the podium for the first time since 2006.
On Monday, defending champions Lokomotiv, placed sixth in the regular season standings, mounted a furious comeback from two sets down to claim a 3-2 (19-25, 23-25, 25-22, 29-27, 15-13) victory over Zenit in Pool B while Serbian international opposite Drazen Luburic kept putting the points away to contribute as many as 34, including six aces, in Lokomotiv’s success. Maxim Mikhaylov’s 27 points were not enough to pull Zenit to a winning start.
The following day, Zenit were up by a set twice in their match against Kuzbass Kemerovo, but failed to hold on to their lead. With the help of a 26-point match high by Italian star Ivan Zaytsev, Kuzbass mastered a 3-2 (21-25, 25-17, 20-25, 25-18, 15-13) win to knock the Tatari team out of contention.
With both Lokomotiv and Kuzbass safely into the semifinals, they locked horns in a race for pole position on Wednesday. The squad from Kemerovo was more persistent and produced a 3-1 (25-19, 25-23, 22-25, 28-26) win to top the final pool standings.
Regular season winners and Final Six hosts Dinamo Moscow needed just a point from Wednesday’s Pool A game against Fakel Novy Urengoy to progress to the semis. However, as Fakel won the first two sets, the Muscovites had their backs against the wall. On the wings of Bulgarian standout Tsvetan Sokolov’s match total of 28 points, however, including three aces and three stuffs, Dinamo achieved a complete turnaround to a 3-2 (26-28, 25-27, 25-18, 25-22, 17-15) victory.
The previous day Dinamo defeated Zenit Saint Petersburg by 3-1 (20-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-21), with a 25-point match high by Russian international Yaroslav Podlesnykh and 22 points by Sokolov. Despite the loss, that result practically secured Zenit second place after they had beaten Fakel by pretty much the same score – 3-1 (20-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-17). Russian star and 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League Dream Teamer Egor Kliuka was the best scorer of the match with 22 points to his name, including four aces and three blocks.
The two semifinals, as well as the fifth-place match between Fakel and Zenit Kazan, will take place on Friday. The championship final will be played on Saturday.
Main photo: Lokomotiv’s Serbian international Marko Ivovic outplays Zenit Kazan’s Alexander Butko over the net (source: lokovolley.com)
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