2021 Men

Kędzierzyn Koźle clinch a stunning five-setter against Zenit to take a step towards #SuperFinals


Article Thu, Mar 18 2021

The highly exhilarating first leg of the CEV Champions League Volley - Men semifinals started with the clash of the most decorated team in this competition Zenit KAZAN and the conqueror of the reigning #CLVolleyM champion - Grupa Azoty Zaksa KĘDZIERZYN KOŹLE at Saint Petersburg in KAZAN. Even though, the home team and six-time Champions League winners were a strong favourites of this encounter and it looked that they can overpower the Polish champion in three sets, the Volleyball fans could enjoy a tremendous turnaround. Zaksa Kędzierzyn Koźle saved five (!) match points in third set to win not only this part, but entire game. A tie-break was a real roller-coaster as even this part went into extra time, but with third match point the team led by Nikola Grbić could start celebrate the triumph on Russian soil. Although, this victory was totally a team effort, Zaksa's outside spiker Kamil Semeniuk deserved a big credit scoring match-high 27 points. Zenit Kazan and Grupa Azoty KĘDZIERZYN KOŹLE will lock horns again on Wednesday, March 24 in decisive game in Kędzierzyn Koźle.

(25-22, 25-22, 27-29, 22-25, 14-16)

With loud support of the enthusiastic fans on the stands what is a truly unique experience in the pandemic times both Zenit KAZAN and Grupa AZOTY Zaksa KĘDZIERZYN KOŹLE opened the match with passionate point-by-point race. The breakpoint came with the hosting team earning a four-point advantage at 14-10. The Polish champion were not giving up quickly reducing the gap with precise spikes from Kamil Semeniuk to eventually tie at 17-17. But Maxim Mikhailov, first with his serve and then with his powerful kills turned it into the favour of the hosts. The final touch - or to be more precise - attack came from Earvin Ngapeth.

Zenit began the second set with early 9-4 lead feeling much more confident on the court. Zaksa were not able to find a proper answer for Kazan's strong hits what resulted in the hosts enlarging their dominance on the net and scoreboard. Zenit ran away with the score reaching seven-point-advantage (13-6). But when the set should enter its decisive part, the Polish champion rose from the ashes being led by Lukasz Kaczmarek (8 points in this set). Spectacularly chasing the score they reduced the gap to one point at 21-20. But the fierce battle in the decisive part was won by the hosts.

Having no more room for mistake, Kedzierzyn Kozle were extremely focused. Exchanging hit by hit, the teams delivered the fans thrilling rallies in tight race that was continued up to the decisive part of the set. Reaching two points advantage at 23-21. Mikhailov's spike gave Kazan a chance to close the match, but Zaksa managed to denied two match points. Three more came in extra time, but once a first chance to win the set came for the Polish club they had no mercy ending the set with Semeniuk's spike.

The fourth set had very competitive beginning, but with Aleksander Sliwka on serve Kędzierzyn Koźle won six consecutive points taking 15-11 lead. Playing under pressure Zenit reduced the gap to two points, the visiting team responded quickly taking 21-16 lead with Kamil Semeniuk showing his power again.

Scoring three in a row with great team efforts, Zenit Kazan reached a 6-3 lead. Coach Nikola Grbic called a time-out and Zaksa caught up the score. No one could feel disappointed as both teams delivered outstanding show playing point-by-point at their finest. First match points for Zaksa came at 14-12, but both were saved by Zenit, one with Bartosz Bednorz's ace. But how they say, the third time lucky! Jakub Kochanowski with help from Łukasz Kaczmarek won a joust with Alexander Volkov and thus Zaksa Kędzierzyn Koźle sealed victory in this roller-coaster.

- In the opener, both teams struggled in reception (33% for Zenit, 39% for Zaksa) and on serve (7 errors committed by both sides), the efficiency in attack made a difference - 71% to 50%.
- Zenit had even 7 points of advantage in set 2, but Zaksa managed to chase the score, but tight battle in the decisive part was won by the hosts.
- Kędzierzyn Koźle saved five match points in third set, to use their first chance to win a set in this match. 8 points including the one to win a set came from Kamil Semeniuk.
- Kamil Semeniuk (7 points) and Aleksander Sliwka (6) led Zaksa Kędzierzyn Koźle to set win in the fourth part.
- Zenit KAZAN managed to save two match points in tie-break.
- Kamil Semeniuk scored match-high 27 points including 23 kills (and 51% of success in attack), 2 blocks and 2 aces, in addition 50% of positive receptions.
- Maxim Mikhailov was the best scorer of Zenit Kazan with 23 points.
- Zenit KAZAN are the most titled team in the #CLVolleyM, they have been crowned on six occasions and aim to reach the final for the ninth time.
- Grupa Azoty KEDZIERZYN KOZLE have never played in the final before, they best result came in 2003 when they won bronze medal.