Lindemans AALST (BEL) vs. Ziraat Bankasi ANKARA (TUR) 1-3 (25-18, 28-30, 19-25, 19-25)m
• Ziraat Bankasi ANKARA secured their ticket to the CEV Cup semi-finals with a second 3-1 victory over Lindemans AALST in as many matches with the Belgian team. • Lindemans AALST fought for all it was worth. Ziraat Bankasi, with the formidable Oleg Antonov, laid the foundation for their victory in the second set, which finished at 30-28 for the Turkish team after as many as missed six set points. Lindemans could not capitalise on the opportunity to reach a 2-0 lead, as their performance from the service line dropped in quality. The home team’s only option to progress to the semis was to score at least a 3-1 victory and to win the eventual Golden Set. It seemed like a ‘mission impossible’ at 1-1 and it was clearly game over. • Nevertheless, Lindemans caught a very promising start to the match although head coach Johan Devoghel had the misfortune of not being able to count on Gertjan Claes (hernia in the neck), Ivan Mihalj (knee operation) and Laszlo De Paepe (backache). • The first set was a nail-biter. The local side’s block-defence system was not always spot-on, e.g. when Ziraat moved the score from 8-11 and 11-13 with the help of Antonov and Vahit Emre Savas. Antti Mäkinen and local superstar Gert Van Walle responded. Wessel Keemink and team captain Adrian Staszewski played their part as well - 19-15 and 23-18 - with an ace of Keemink to boot. The young Dutchman scored, again with an ace, for 25-18. • After such a spectacle, the home crowd initiated a Mexican wave at 6-4 in the second set. Van Walle pushed his limits to keep the hosts in the match (12-15, 15-16, 19-19 and 22-21). Gert, the twin brother of Beach Volleyball star Tom Van Walle, slapped the roof tiles in the Scholte hall. Along with Frenchman Jhon Wendt, he cancelled as many as six set balls for Ziraat Bankasi until Bartosz Kurek forced the equaliser at 30-28. • In the third set, Lindemans AALST could not recover from the previous blow. Van Walle hurt his foot, while Antonov kept testing the home team. Seppe Van Hoyweghen’s contribution with a change to Keemink in the setter’s position could not turn the tide. The sacred fire quietly died out at 12-17 and 17-23. Lindemans gave its all, but Kurek cashed his side’s second set point to make it 2-1 for ANKARA. Case closed since that secured the qualification to the semi-finals for Ziraat. • Lindemans AALST carries no blame. They fought for what it was worth. When push came to shove, they were unlucky. Their attacks may have lacked inspiration. Too much at the corners, too little in the middle, nothing at all ‘in the pipe’. • Van Walle top scored in the end for the home side with 25 points as Martijn Colson, Mäkinen and Wendt finished in double digits with 11, 10 and 10 respectively. • Four players of Ziraat Bankasi – Savas (19), Antonov (17), Dawid Konarski (15) and Kurek (13) – finished the match in double figures as well.