Milan, Italy, September 22, 2018 – The ‘Clash of the Titans’ featuring Italy and Russia was the major highlight of the second competition day in Milan. The support of as many as 13,000 fans was not enough for the hosts to add a seventh straight victory to their tally as Russia snatched the win 3-2 (19-25, 25-18, 25-21, 19-25, 15-11). Maxim Mikhaylov and Dmitriy Muserskiy with 18 and 15 points were too much to stand for the co-hosts of the tournament who responded with 21 and 16 points by their star players, Ivan Zaytsev and Osmany Juantorena.
Still, the result is enough for Italy to progress to the Final Six of the tournament they are co-hosting together with Bulgaria.
With the return of Filippo Lanza, Italy had all their main weapons at hand, and pushed by the partisan crowd, Zaytsev and Juantorena secured a 17-13 lead in the opening set. Russia head coach Sergei Shliapnikov decided to change setter, which sparked a comeback for 15-17. Thrilling rallies literally made the whole venue rock with Italy always in command up to the end, as middle blocker Daniele Mazzone sealed a 25-19 win for the home side.
Coach Shliapnikov decided that setter Alexander Butko would be taking to the court again. Russia took a 13-9 lead as Italy struggled with a series of service errors, but Zaytsev shortened the distance at 13-15. Russia raised their mighty block for 20-13. The Azzurri lost focus and Russia further extended their lead (23-16). Simone Anzani tried to delay the end of the set (18-23), but Mikhaylov (best scorer of the set with six points) had the last word (25-18).
The reigning European champions kept their performance at a high level, as their effectiveness in attack improved from 33% to a monstrous 60%, this resulting in an 18-12 lead. Italy coach Gianlorenzo Blengini decided to replace Filippo Lanza with Gabriele Maruotti but this did not stop Russia and again Mikhaylov finished it all off at 25-21.
Juantorena and Zaytsev, Italy’s lethal weapons, secured an 11-8 lead for the home side in the fourth set, which is what the partisan crowd had been longing for. Russia could not find a response as Zaytsev smashed down every ball (19-15) and with Juantorena at his best, these two contributed to a 25-19 win for Italy.
The battle was fierce in the decisive set with the score levelled at 6-6, but an ace by Dmitry Volkov put Russia ahead 8-6. Dmitriy Muserskiy widened the gap for 12-10, before Russia sealed their 3-2 victory at 15-11.