YORDANOV HELPS BULGARIA SURVIVE CHINA SCARE
Ningbo, China, May 25 – Bulgarian wing spiker Boyan Yordanov led the way with 17 points as his team received a decent old scare from China but rallied back to win 3-2 (25-18, 18-25, 19-25, 25-17, 15-11) in first round action at the inaugural 2018 FIVB Men’s Volleyball Nations League.
It was a tense encounter from the first serve as the world 14th-ranked Bulgarians looked to continue their historical dominance of the 20th-ranked Chinese. In the end it was Yordanov, along with wing spiker Rozalin Penchev (13 points) – both seasoned campaigners – who made all the difference.
But China forced the Europeans to work overtime – much to the delight of fans in Ningbo who were treated to two five-setters on the opening night of action in the eastern Chinese city.
The star on the night for the locals was opposite spiker Chuan Jiang with 17 points, while middle blocker Rao Shuhan chipped in with a haul of 14 that included a team-leading three blocks.
The stat sheet didn’t look too promising for the home team coming in to the encounter. China had not beaten the Bulgarians in 56 years – since way back in 1962 at the FIVB World Championship in Moscow. Overall it was 13-1 in favour of Bulgaria in head-to-heads and there were moments of silence to greet the visitors’ winning early points – almost as though the crowd were fearful about what was to unfold.
Things looked to be following form after a first set where China never looked comfortable – and Yordanov had already started to dominate for the Bulgarians. But China dug deep in the second stanza and started to rally behind the efforts of Chuan.
China’s coach Raul Lozano had said the day before that playing the “best teams in the world” was a great opportunity “to show our positive side on home soil, so I expect my players to have a great performance.”
A courtside cheer squad then got the locals engaged in a series of chants in the hope it would lift the players and it seemed to work in the second and third sets, helped along by a high Bulgarian error count that would reach 38 by the end of the night.
But those errors were offset by the hard shifts clocked in by Yordanov, Penchev and the effervescent captain Viktor Yosifov and Bulgaria can move on with their confidence boosted as they prepare to next face the USA and then Argentina.
China coach Raul Lozano: “We had a good performance and made a new step in our growth. We have made progress in blocking and attacking. However, we didn’t adjust when the opponents made changes, and that was the turning point of the game. This is a high-level match, Iam satisfied with this result.”
China captain Ji Daoshuai: “Congratulations to Bulgaria.We performed at our level in this match.And the match showcased what we practised in South America a few days ago, so I hope that we can continue to improve through training and matches.”
Bulgaria captain Viktor Yosifov: “I think China played some great volleyball in what was a first game. And for us, it is important to win this game. I think we don’t have a perfect feeling between us on the court yet. But I believe that we are going to improve.
“It was a difficult game, congratulations to the China team. It is the first game of the tournament – for us it is important to win the game. The score is not important – I think everything is fine.”
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