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Russia rallies past Serbia for opening win in Olympic men's volleyball
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13:49, August 10, 2008

Athens bronze medallist Russia came from one set down to beat former Olympic champion Serbia 3-1 at the BIT Gymnasium on Sunday for an opening victory at the men's volleyball preliminaries of the Beijing Olympic Games.

With the 20-25, 25-21, 25-22 and 25-14 victory in pool B, the Russians gained a sweet revenge for their 3-0 loss to the Sydney Games gold medallist in the semi-finals of the World League final round two weeks ago.

"I am very delighted with the victory in our first game at this Olympics," said Russia head coach Vladimir Alekno. "Our players overcame the nervousness in the first set to play better to win the next three sets."

"I think the key to our victory is that we were able to put the pressure behind us and just concentrated on our game, hopefully we will continue to have good performance in future games," he added.

Maxim Mikhaylov led Russia with 21 points and Sergey Tetyukhin added 14.

It was hotly contested early in the first set before Serbia pulled away from a 10-all tie with a 6-1 run capped by two straight aces by Ivan Miljkovic. Taking advantage of the comfortable cushion, Serbia sailed to the victory in the opening set.

Russia came back in the second set with improved blocking against Miljkovic and Milo Nikic. Serbia managed to stay within 21-19 thanks to a smart play of setter Nikola Grbic, but Russia ran off four of the last six points to level it back at 25-21.

It was tied at 10-all again in the third set when Serbian libero Marko Samardzic raced to the back courting board for a brilliant save, only to find a high flying Yury Berezhko tear open the defense put up by three Serbians for a solid smash that gave Russia the momentum to go up 16-12 at the second TTO.

Serbia steadily pulled within 22-21, but Russia denied two Nikic shots before he drove the third out to surrender the set.

The fourth set saw a disappointing Serbian team, who conceded nine points in a row after a six-all draw and never recovered.

"I think Russia deserved the victory because they played better than we did," said Serbia head coach Igor Kolakovic. "We lacked energy after the first set, especially in counter attacks."

"Hopefully we will play better and win games that we need to win," he added.

Miljkovic just managed 12 kills on 33 attempts to contribute team-high 15 points for Serbia, who was outblocked 17-9 in the match that lasted one hour and 29 minutes.


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