An outstanding performance was not enough for final success in Turkey
In the last round of the Champions League group stage, ACH Volley Ljubljana and Ziraat Banka from Ankara competed in a direct showdown for the second place in Group E, which brings the knockout fights in the most elite competition. In an exciting encounter, decided by small details, Ziraat's volleyball team won the match 3:2 in sets.
Ankara - Ankara Sports Hall, 1500 spectators, referees Igor Porvaznik (Slovakia), Ksenija Jurković (Croatia).
Ziraat Bank ANKARA : ACH Volley Ljubljana 3 : 2 (-23, 23, 22, -21, 8).
Ziraat Bank ANKARA: Atanasov 20, Ter Maat 19, Bulbul 16, Yucel 3, Tokgoz, Eksi 4, Firincioglu, Tuinistra 10, Tosun 8, Gunes, Sahin, Bayraktar (L), Gedik, Yatgin. Coach: Mustafa Kavaz.
ACH Volley Ljubljana: Mejal, Šket 3, Mašulović 10, Todorović 3, Bošnjak, Koncilja 11, Šestan 7, Kovačič (L), Gjorgiev 23, Videčnik, Kök 16, Šen 2. Coach: Radovan Gačič.
The start of the match was even, but neither team managed to gain a significant advantage. At 20:20, Kök shined on the opening shot, silencing the Ankara crowd with two aces. Ziraat's volleyball players levelled the score at 22, but this time Kök's efficient attack provided the first final ball, which Mašulović took advantage of with a great block to give the Dragons a 1:0 lead in the set (23:25).
The second set was also a very even match, with the teams exchanging the lead until the end of the set, which this time went to the home team. At first, the Dutch opposite Ziraat Bank Ter Maat was not able to finish the set at 24:22, but in the next point the other Dutch player in the Turkish team, Tunistra, managed to do it to tie the set (25:23).
The third set started with the guests from Ljubljana quickly gaining a five-point advantage (5:10). The home team's strategist Kavaz tried to change the situation on the court with substitutions, but to no avail. The Ankara volleyball team managed to get closer to the Dragons, but this time it was the experienced captain Gjorgiev who stepped to the fore and led the Ljubljana team to a 2:1 lead in sets (22:25).
The Turks, who were already with water running down their throats, were not disconcerted by the string deficit. They opened the fourth set with a great start (9:4), but the Ljubljana volleyball team tried to erase the advantage throughout the set. To the delight of the crowd in the hall, they failed to do so and Ziraat managed to tie the set (25:21).
In the decisive fifth set, the Dragons relented and allowed their opponents to run away by four (6:2). The Turkish volleyball team maintained their advantage until the end of the match and celebrated their victory and qualification to the 1/8-finals of the Champions League.
Statement of ACH Volley Ljubljana coach Radovan Gačič: "Before the game we were aware that it would be very difficult and that the game would be decided by nuances. The course of the match was almost identical to the one in Ljubljana. We had a chance in the second set to take a 2-0 lead, and every missed opportunity is avenged in such matches. I am glad that we managed to lead 2:1 despite the tie, but then we ran out of energy in the fourth and fifth sets. We weren't as strong on the opening stroke and I think Ziraat was a slightly better opponent today."