High drama as favourites through to Russia semis


Zenit's Aleksandr Butko sets to Artem Volvich as Wilfredo Leon follows the action and Yugra's Petar Krsmanovic prepares for the block at the Russia Superleague Final Six.

Lausanne, Switzerland, May 8, 2017 - Dinamo Moscow came within a hair's breadth of crashing out of the Russian Superleague, when they found themseleves trailing Fakel Novy Urengoy by two sets in the closing match of pool play at the Final Six tournament in Moscow.

A three-set sweep by Fakel would have see all three teams in Pool B (including Belogorie Belgorod) tied on 1-1 records and 3 points each, with identical 3-3 sets. Dinamo were trailing 0-2, and with Belogorie on a 1.00 point ratio and by then qualified, still needed at least 22 points in the third set to eliminate Fakel.

Egor Kliuka of Fakel Novy Urengoy beats the Dinamo block of Konstantin Bakun and Alexey Ostepenko, as drama unfolded in Moscow.

The Moscow side seemed set to meet their goal going into the second technical timeout of the third set with three points to spare. But Fakel rallied for four straight points to take a 17-16 lead - and Dinamo again found themselves in a very perilous position.

But somehow, Yuri Marichev's side, who had been without Aleksandr Markin since his injury in the first set, managed to keep scoring and inched towards that 22nd point that saw them through to Wednesday's semifinals. In what was somewhat of an anticlimax, Dinamo carried on to actually take the set, though Fakel won the match 3-1 (31-29, 25-16, 21-25, 25-18).

That result did leave the three teams tied at 1-1 and 3 points - but Dinamo ranked first on 4-3 sets and Belogorie second on 3-3, with Fakel were eliminated on 3-4.

When the final count was in, Dmitriy Volkov was top scorer of the game with 19 points, and Ilia Vlasov got in eight stuffs as Fakel stopped Dinamo in their tracks on the block, 19 to 9. Yuri Berezhko scored 16 points for Dinamo.

Earlier in Moscow, defending champions Zenit Kazan rebounded from their opening match shaky perfromance to take the two sets they needed and sweep Gazprom-Yugra Surgut 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-22) for their own ticket to the semifinals.

As expected, Maxim Mikhailov with 19 points and Wilfredo Leon with 16 led the scoring for Zenit, with coach Vladimir Alekno pulling out Andrey Ashchev and Aleksandr Butko to rest them after the second and deciding set.

Russian Superleague semifinals (Wednesday):
- Zenit Kazan v Belogorie Belgorod
- Dinamo Moscow v Lokomotiv Novosibirsk

Earlier on Wednesday Fakel Novy Urengoy will meet Gazprom-Yugra Surgut for fifth place and a ticket to the 2017-18 CEV Challenge Cup.

The bronze medal match and final are on Thursday.

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