Russian heartache for Greens

Lokomotiv proved too strong for Panathinaikos as the Russians defeated the Greeks in the CEV Cup Final, hosted in Athens yesterday. The Belgorod side won volleyball’s second most prestigious European trophy at the Olympic Sports Hall by downing Panathinaikos 3-1 for their first CEV Cup after winning the Champions League twice. Panathinaikos took an 11-10 lead in the first set, but Lokomotiv was not to be denied, taking it 25-19. The hosts tried harder in the second set, which they won 25-17, prompting hopes for another exciting comeback, as in the semifinal with Cuneo on Saturday, when the Greens came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 (22-25, 18-25, 25-15, 25-20, 15-6). Yet Lokomotiv, who on Saturday had defeated Spain’s Unicaja Almeria 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-23), upped its game with excellent serving and a strong block that gave it the third set 25-20. Panathinaikos started as the stronger team in the fourth set and led 10-8, but a 7-1 partial score for the Russians, including three aces, offered them an unassailable lead that gave them the 25-20 win to seal their victory. There were two small consolation prizes for Panathinaikos’s Liberman Agamez, who won the top scorer and the Most Valuable Player awards. Panathinaikos supporters once again did not fill the stands, but the 12,000 or so fans who were present created a great atmosphere, except for the use of laser pointers in the Russians’ eyes and the lighting of flares in the indoor arena. However, the ceremony at the end was marred by the tear gas used by the police outside the sports hall to disperse fans of Panathinaikos and AEK who were clashing around the Olympic Stadium. AEK fans were in the area, as their soccer team was due to play later at the Olympic Stadium. Cuneo took third place in the final-four, downing Almeria 3-1 (18-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-18) earlier yesterday. Challenge Cup EA Patras finished fourth in the Challenge Cup final-four in Turkey, losing to host and eventual winner Arkas 3-0 on Saturday and to Romania’s Costanta 3-0 yesterday.

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