SPORTS

Panathinaikos settles for third spot at Euro volleyball’s Top Teams Cup

The Panathinaikos volleyball team, seeking its first-ever European title, ended third in the Final Four of the Top Teams Cup in Majorca over the weekend after defeating Serbia-Montenegro’s Vojvodina 3-1 in the tournament’s playoff match for third place. The European club-level competition is reserved for teams that miss out on domestic league titles, but rank near the top. Domestic league winners compete in the more prestigious Champions League. Panathinaikos needed to fight hard for its 3-1 victory over Vojvodina. The Athens club opened soundly with a 25-16 win in the best-of-five encounter’s first set. Panathinaikos then dropped the second set 27-25, but rallied to take the next two sets with scores of 26-24 and 25-21. Panathinaikos lost its semifinal 3-1 against the competition’s eventual winner, Piacenza. The Italian club defeated Spanish hosts Majorca in five sets. «I expected better than third place at the Final Four tournament – that’s for sure. The team was well prepared to win this trophy but we were up against a mighty opponent in the semifinals,» said Panathinaikos coach Xavier Weber. «Third place is a fair result considering our performances here in Majorca. My only concern is our attack’s performance,» he added. Weber was, without doubt, referring to his side’s ongoing domestic league struggle, where Panathinaikos is currently placed second behind local powerhouse Iraklis, a runner-up in last season’s Champions League. The Thessaloniki club, incidentally, is preparing to also do battle in this year’s Champions League Final Four, a fortnight away. Back to domestic competition, front-runner Iraklis holds a two-point lead over Panathinaikos, but the challenger has a game in hand. The pair have broken away from the rest of the pack. Olympiakos, placed third, trails Panathinaikos by 10 points. Weber said his team was capable of winning this season’s Greek league-and-cup double. «I believe we can win the double,» said Weber. «Of course, if we keep playing like this, we will have problems because Iraklis and Olympiakos possess strong sides.»