Zenit-Kazan: in Champions League like at a resort

On 21 January, Zenit-Kazan had a penultimate match of the group tournament of Champions League in Budva (Montenegro). Having won the host Budvanska Rivijera in the fifth round 3-0, the reigning champion of Europe among clubs Zenit did not leave any doubt whatsoever about its superiority over a modest Montenegrin club. Realnoe Vremya goes into details.

Team of the second ten of the participants of the Russian Super League

To play at a resort, Budva is the main resort on the Adriatic coast of Montenegro, is very popular among Russian tourists; when in Russia snowstorm is raging and frost is getting harder it is physically pleasant to be there. On Thursday afternoon it was +8. To tell the truth, the result of this match was predictable. In addition, the stands of the local arena were almost empty: a moderate hall with one podium, blind wall and two small stands in four lines at two ends of the hall…

Yes, Budvanska Rivijera was the champion of Yugoslavia in 2001, the runner-up in 2002, and won two Yugoslavian Cups in these years, silver medal of Serbian and Montenegrin Championships in 2003 and 2004. After the break of Yugoslavia, the team won 5 Montenegrin Cups (2010-2014), two silver medals in Montenegrin Championship in 2003 and 2004 and repeated the result 7 times (2008-2015). The Montenegrins played in two play-offs of Champions League in 2011 and 2014 during 7 seasons but could reach only the first round. So, Budvanska Rivijera, and not only this team, cannot cope with the leader of the European club volleyball from Kazan.

The result of this match was predictable. Photo: zenit-kazan.com

Zina, where's money?*

Moreover, last summer the team faced financial problems that resulted in departure of two Cuban players and a skilled blocker Novica Bjelica from Budvanska Rivijera. The team is headed by the mentor of the national team of Montenegro Slobodan Boskan, Olympic champion (2000) in the composition Yugoslavian national team, European champion (2001) and runner-up of the World Championship (2001). Slobodan Boskan played over 10 years in the national team and became a bronze medalist of the European Championship in 2007. As a member of Tours (France) won the Champions League in 2005, played in Italian, Greek and Turkish championships, but finished his career in Montenegro.

In the first match on 18 November in Kazan, Zenit easily defeated the Montenegrins as it was expected – 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-19). Maksim Mikhailov (12 points, 3 aces) and Alexey Spiridonov (10, 1) were the host team's best player. Budvanska Rivijera's scoring leaders were Lazar Cirovic (8) and Olefir Bogdan (8). The point statistics of serve (6-3) and block (11-2) was very impressive. But the Kazan players had more errors – 19-13. Slobodan Boskan did not seem to be disappointed that day.

'It is our normal result. I'm not surprised because Zenit is a great team and the reigning winner of the Champions League. However, I'm disappointed with some actions of my team during the whole match, and we will work on it. Zenit honestly won,' the specialist noted.

Budvanska Rivijera's coach is Slobodan Boskan, the mentor of the national team of Montenegro. Photo: volleyballnews.ru

Zenit's leaders have a day-off

It should be noted that having won all four matches with the total score – 12-1 (sets), the Kazan team is leading in the group. Budva has only 1 point for 4 matches, which was scored in a match with Tirol (Austria) 2-3, 2-12 (sets), 4 defeats and loss of even theoretical chances to reach the play-off. It is quite logical that the coaching staff of Zenit left its leaders – the opposite Mikhailov, the outside hitter Spiridonov and the libero Aleksey Verbov – at home. The very head coach Vladimir Alekno did not go to Montenegro, he did not fly to Turkey to play with Halkbank too. Alexander Sereberyannikov, the head coach of Zenit, headed the team in Budva. Evgeny Sivozhelets, who did not play since 16 December because of a back injury was included in the list of the players for the game. In the end, he did not play.

No fight

Let us to say that there was no fight. Kazan stood head and shoulder above Budva even without its three leaders. A confrontation was visible only in the first half of the first set and at the beginning of the third set when Budva even started with two-point difference – 3-1.

The mentors of the guest team fielded Matthew Anderson, Alexey Kuleshov, Theodor Salparov, Sergey Bagrey, Viktor Poletaev, Wilfredo Leon and Alexey Gutsalyuk for the starter. In the second set Kuleshov was substituted by Igor Kobzar, and at the end of the third one, Ivan Demakov appeared on court. Poletaev was Zenit's main scorer in this match. His ace in the middle of the first set calmed down the Montenegrins who started swiftly, 14-17. He scored three points continuously, and the following smashing serve was performed by Leon, 15-20. Now our Cuban served three aces in a row! And our American Anderson ended the fight in the first set.

Anderson ended the fight in the first set. Photo: zenit-kazan.com

Overwhelming superiority in block

The guests started the second set without warming up. They successfully attacked at the beginning and after combinations. Budva did not manage to score any point in block, Kazan had an overwhelming superiority there – 10 points! Gutsalyuk did it better and more often than the others, 3-9. Earlier Leon served an ace. What Budva reached was that it trimmed the margin to 3 points – 9-12, or, more precisely, Kazan helped them taking risks, while the hosts preferred not to do. Anderson performed a series of powerful attacks, he and Bagrey served aces, and Gutsalyuk brought down the curtain on the set, 16-25.

Block helped Zenit to cut Budva, which lifted its spirits, down to size at the beginning of the third set. Kuleshov had two blocks in succession, 3-3. Zenit's out allowed Budva to lead the score for the last time in the evening, 4-3. That's all. Poletaev's ace, 5-7, Bagrey's block, Leon and Aderson's attacks helped the Kazan team to decide the fate of the set and the match. Demakov substituted on time, who scored a point once he touched the ball, 15-23. The last point belonged to Poletaev, 17-25. It is interesting that Zenit spent exactly 21 minutes for each set or about 1 hour in total.

*Vladimir Vysotsky 'Dialogue Near TV'

By Sergey Gavrilov

Budvanska Rivijera – Zenit– 0-3 (17-25, 16-25, 17-25)

Budva– Olefir (12 points); Zenit– Poletaev (16), Anderson (15), Leon (11)

Block 0-10, Serve 2-8, Error 20-18