3 out of 4 for Club Worlds hopefuls in European Champions League
Elitsa Vasileva strikes before the block of Anastasiia Maievska and Olga Skrypak as Igor Gorgonzola Novara defeat Khimik Yuzhny on the opening day of the 2019 European Champions League. (Photo: CEV)
Reigning world champions VakifBank of Turkey suffered a shock defeat in the hands of Italy's Savino Del Bene Scandicci, going down 3-2 (25-21, 19-25, 13-25, 25-15, 15-11) at home in Istanbul.
But defending European champions Igor Gorgonzola Novara of Italy set off on the right foot with a solid victory against Ukraine's Khimik Yuzhny 3-0 (25-17, 25-10, 25-7). The other two World Championship hopefuls from Europe both took five sets to secure their opening wins at home, Imoco Volley Conegliano of Italy edging Hungary's Vasas Budapest 3-2 (21-25, 25-20, 25-10, 23-25, 15-4) and Eczacibasi VitrA prevailing in the Istanbul derby 3-2 (25-23, 25-18, 23-25, 22-25, 15-10) over Fenerbahce.
The Women's Club World Championship will be held from December 3 to 8 in Shaoxing, China. Alongside the four European entrants, the competition also features hosts Guangdong Evergrande, Asian champions Tianjin Bohai Bank, South American champions Itambe Minas Belo Horizonte and wild card Dentil Praia Clube of Uberlandia.
Three-time world champions Vakifbank blew a 2-1 lead to disappoint their home fans on Wednesday night. Four of the Turkish side's players scored in double digits, including a match high of 18 by Sweden's Isabelle Haak, 13 by Brazil's Gabi Guimaraes, 12 by Serbia's Milena Rasic and 11 by Ebrar Karakurt.
But Vakifbank gave away as many as 35 points on unforced errors, including 12 in the fourth set and 9 in the fifth, as Mexico's Samantha Bricio scored 15 points to lead Scandicci to their comeback win.
Also in Istanbul, Tuesday evening, two-time world champions Eczacibasi thrilled the 4,500-strong crowd as they held off the advances of Fenerbahce, led by Brazil's Natalia Pereira on 26 points (including four blocks) and Serbia's Tijana Boskovic on 20 (including 18/33 for 55% in attack).
In Italy, Novara produced a show of force at home over Khimik Yuzhny, with Serbia's Jovana Brakocevic scoring a match high of 20 points and Bulgaria's Elitsa Vasileva adding another 12.
Previously in Italy, Conegliano came up against tough resistance from Vasas, but pulled together with a very convincing fifth set for their win before more than 3,000 fans. Paola Egonu, who came on off the bench in the first set and stayed on for the duration, was top scorer of the game with 28 points for the Italians who also had USA's Chiaka Ogbogu adding another 17.
The four European sides will play one more Champions League round next week before heading off to China for the World Championships, with Eczacibasi travelling to Finland to play LP Salo, Scandici hosting Russia's Lokomotiv Kaliningrad, Novara playing Germany's Allianz in Stuttgart and Conegliano off to Romania to meet CSM Alba Blaj.
● Full details on the CEV website.
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