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Russia escapes from upset in five-set thriller against Germany
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14:29, August 12, 2008

Athens bronze medallist Russia narrowly escaped from a major upset in the Olympic men's volleyball tournament after overcoming lowly-ranked Germany in five sets at the BIT Gymnasium Tuesday morning.

Rallied twice from one set down, the world No. 2 closed the tiebreaker with a 5-1 run to land the 25-27, 25-21, 21-25, 25-23 and 16-14 victory over the World No. 17 and improve to 2-0 in preliminary pool B.

"There are many factors that can decide the result of the match, luck is one of them," Russia head coach Vladimir Alekno told Xinhua through an interpreter. "I think we had the luck today."

"It's also important that we have prepared very well for this match, both physically and mentally, we were totally prepared to play a hard match like this," Alekno added. "Of course the victory is good for us, but I am more happier with the fact that we kind of surpassed ourselves."

Germany, who had lost to Poland in straight sets on Sunday, overcame an early 5-1 deficit in the tiebreaker to overtake the lead at 11-8, but failed to hold on.

"I think we were unlucky today, we only lost by two points for the whole match," said a disappointing German coach Stelian Moculescu.

Both teams played fine volleyball from the start of the first set which saw them fighting to 17 draws before tying it at 25-all. Then Frank Dehne served an lucky ace which touched the net and fell home and captain Bjorn Andrae, Jochen Schops and Ralph Bergmann teamed up for a kill block against Yury Berezhko to seal the opener for Germany.

The Russians came back with improved defense in the second set. Middle blocker Alexander Volkov had two stuffs in a row to lead Russia into the second TTO up at 16-13 before a spiking error of Marcus Popp allowed the European runner-up improve it to 19-15, a gap Germany could never close.

In the third set, it was tied at 18-all when the show time of Jochen Schops began. The 2.00-meters all-around player had one kill, two aces and two more fine services which helped Popp harvest two easy blocks to push Germany to an unshakable 23-18 lead.

The Russians fought back strongly in the fourth set, where they held an narrow lead most of the way before two consecutive Alexey Ostapenko aces enlarged it to 22-18. Germany erased the deficit with a 4-0 burst, only to see Semen Poltavskiy strike home twice to clinch the set for Russia and force the tiebreaker.

"Germany did create a lot of trouble for us, especially in serving," said Russia captain Vadim Khamuttskikh. "Fortunately we were able to fight till the end and get the satisfactory result."

Maxim Mikhaylov led Russia with 17 points while Schops finished with game-high 19 points for Germany, who has dropped two in a row.

In the marathon match that lasted two hours and 13 minutes, the two European teams combined for 19 aces.

Twelve teams are competing in two preliminary groups in round robin format with top four finishers from each group qualifying for the quarterfinals.


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