Germany delight home crowd as Red Dragons fail to deliver at crucial times, Poland claim Clash of the Titans with Serbia

Hosts Germany defeated Belgium in straight sets (28-26, 25-19, 26-24) in the first Pool A match at Max-Schmeling-Halle on Tuesday. To complete the programme of the opening day of the mens European Olympic qualifier world champions Poland made up for a slow start and eventually beat World League silver medallists Serbia 3-1 (22-25, 25-18, 25-23, 25-21) powered by their superstar Bartosz Kurek.

Belgium vs. Germany 0:3 (26-28, 19-25, 24-26)
European Games champions Germany had most of the 4,500 crowd behind them, but there was also a sizeable amount of Belgians watching on cheering the Europe No.9 ranked side.

Germany were on the back foot for most of the first set, but were level at 23-23 as it reached its climax. Both sides wasted a set point before a superb kill from Philipp Collin gave Germany another chance, and this time Lukas Kampas ace was too hot to handle as the hosts prevailed 28-26.

After a slow start to the match, Vital Heynens Germany found their rhythm in the second set as they moved into a 9-4 lead. Christian Fromms ace gave Germany a lead of five at the second technical timeout and with Gyrgy Grozer consistently scoring the win was always coming. They took the set at a canter, 25-19.

The Red Dragons led Germany in the early stages of the final set, 3-1 and later 10-7. It looked as though Belgium would make a match of it and pull a set back, but as the end neared with Belgium leading 22-21 they collapsed and Germany profited. The first match point was wasted, but after Grozers ace flew through the Belgian defence to set victory up again, Grozer struck one final time to fire Heynens side to victory, 26-24.

I feel very disappointed and it is indeed very frustrating to lose two sets the way we did tonight, said Belgium outside spiker Tomas Rousseaux. We did some really good things in the first and third sets and should have won both, but we messed it all up towards the end and it is only our fault. Now we have one day to rest and focus on the next matches. We still have some chances to continue in this tournament but we should not have wasted such an opportunity as the one we got in this match.

We managed to claim a three-set win, so everything is fine in the end, said home star Gyrgy Grozer, top scorer with 19 points. However, we have to be more consistent. Every time we trailed, we started coming back and this is a good thing. We have to perform better as a team and play more freely, especially since the matches against Poland and Serbia will be tougher than the one we just played and won against a strong Belgian team.

I am very happy, said Germany head coach Vital Heynen. When you play bad and still win 3:0, you have to be very happy. We have to play better and will be doing so tomorrow in our matchup with Serbia.

Germany are back in action on Wednesday against Serbia, while Belgium will look to bounce back from defeat as they play reigning world champions Poland on Thursday.

Serbia vs. Poland 1:3 (25-22, 18-25, 23-25, 21-25)
World champions Poland set the pace of the game in the early stages of the much anticipated Clash of the Titans starring two real volleyball heavyweights. The many Polish fans in attendance pushed their heroes as much as they could but Serbia edged ahead towards the end of the period (23-20) to shape up an exciting final rush. After a time-out the white-and-red guys from Poland closed in (23-22) before Uros Kovacevic claimed Serbias first set point in the match. The silver medallists from last years World League did not waste this opportunity and even a challenge requested by Poland coach Stphane Antiga could not prevent Serbia from securing the first set 25-22.

The story repeated itself in the second period with Poland leading 8-5 at the first technical time-out and becoming even more dominant after scoring three points in a row after the break. This time, however, Poland did not dissipate their early advantage and with Bartosz Kurek on fire, they set their sight on the finish comfortably leading by as many as seven points (20-13), before eventually getting the job done at 25-18.

The third set was a close race from the start and it delivered the kind of battle you would expect from two elite teams such as Poland and Serbia. It continued the same way through to the end; Kurek was once again Polands main attacking force and he helped the Poles get an edge in the match by finishing the last point of a truly exciting period (25-23).

Serbia were not going to surrender without putting on a good fight and came back strong in the fourth stanza (11-7) but Poland countered back reducing their gap down to only one point (14-13). Serbia still had a small lead at the second technical time-out but Poland edged ahead shortly afterwards (17-16) and their fans were almost standing on their feet, hoping Antigas team could finish it off avoiding the tie-break. Polands positive run continued and the white-and-red party started before the final whistle which came after setter Fabian Drzyzga smashed the ball down (25-21).

Marko Ivovic, Serbias outside spiker, said: At some point we kind of stopped playing, and this happened after the referee gave a point to Poland. We got nervous and we lost focus. It does not really matter what happened today, we have to win the next matches even though we know it is going to be difficult because all teams want to make it through the pool stage and stay in contention for a spot to qualify for the Olympics. We must reset and forget what went wrong today, thinking only about what is next.

Poland team captain Michal Kubiak said: We are happy with winning the first match. This is really an important step in such competitive tournament. We started really good but we relaxed and ended up losing the opening set. However, we remain focussed and could sweep the next three. Our fans are just amazing, we are happy we have them and we do appreciate their help and support.

Serbia are in action again on Wednesday with a tricky match against hosts Germany, while Poland have a rest day on Wednesday before facing Belgium in Thursdays first match.

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Hinweis: Dies ist ein aktueller Bericht vom 05.01.2016!

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