MVP Wilfredo Leon Venero celebrates with Matt Anderson and Maxim Mikhaylov Kazan's fourth Champions League title and second in two years
Krakow, Poland, April 17, 2016 – Russia’s superstar coach Vladimir Alekno kept alive his chance of accomplishing a famous three-peat repeat after leading his club team Zenit Kazan to a famous come-from-behind 3-2 (23-25, 22-25, 25-17, 27-25, 15-13) win over Trentino Diatec of Italy in the final of the CEV Denizbank Volleyball Champions League on Sunday.
The victory saw Zenit Kazan set an all-time record in Europe’s and the world’s most prestigious club competition by claiming their fourth Champions League crown following the titles they had previously claimed in 2008, 2012 and 2015. No other team has achieved that same feat since the CEV Volleyball Champions League was established 16 years ago. Trentino Diatec had to be content with silver but Sunday’s medal coincides with their return to the European elite a few years after they had swept three straight titles from 2009 to 2011 and won a bronze medal in 2012. Zenit Kazan cemented their status as Europe’s strongest team with their Cuban-born outside spiker Wilfredo Leon Venero shining bright like a diamond to sweep the Most Valuable Player honour for the second straight year.
Earlier, Italy’s Cucine Lube Civitanova beat hosts Asseco Resovia Rzeszow 3-2 (25-20, 25-27, 22-25, 25-22, 15-10) to finish third.
Meanwhile, all eyes will now turn to coach Alekno who is highly regarded for bringing a string of success for the Russian men’s national team and club team Zenit Kazan in a single season.
In 2012, Alekno steered Zenit Kazan to win the national title and the CEV Volleyball Champions League before guiding the Russia national team to win the men’s gold medal in a dramatic come-from-behind final victory over Brazil at the Olympic Games in London.
The 49-year-old continues to prove his brilliance from the sidelines with key substitutions in crucial moments that eventually change the outcome of the match and he did it again against Trentino with young middle blocker Ivan Demakov replacing Alekander Gutsalyuk, whilst libero Teodor Salparov and setter Alexander Butko took the spots of Alexey Verbov and Igor Kobzar, respectively in the crucial third set.
Zenit did get a bit of scare in the fourth set, when they blew a two-point lead of 24-22 to allow Trentino back into the game, though they did manage to bring it home on their fourth set point to force a tie-break.
Dubbed 'King of the Comeback', Alekno is known to be a risk-taker, but was again rewarded with another most amazing and memorable triumph.
Leon attacked for 67% (22/33) and scored a total of 27 points to lead Zenit, including four aces. Maxim Mikhaylov, with two aces and two blocks, had 18/26 kills for 69% and contributed 22 points.
Mitar Djuric of Greece was best scorer for Trentino with 17 points.
This season, Alekno will attempt to break new ground as he goes for a second treble. With the national and European title in the bag, Alekno and his Russian national squad will try to replicate their 2012 achievements of taking the national, European and Olympic title in the same year.
First up is the FIVB Volleyball World League, which starts on June 16, and where Russia finished eighth four years ago.
CEV Volleyball Champions League Dream Team
Best Libero: Jénia Grebennikov (FRA/Cucine Lube Civitanova)
Second Best Middle Blocker: Sebastian Solé (ARG/Trentino Diatec)
Best Middle Blocker: Russell Holmes (USA/Asseco Resovia Rzeszow)
Second Best Outside Spiker: Tine Urnaut (SLO/Trentino Diatec)
Best Outside Spiker: Wilfredo Leon Venero (CUB/Zenit Kazan)
Best Opposite: Maxim Mikhailov (RUS/Zenit Kazan)
Best Setter: Simone Giannelli (ITA/ Trentino Diatec)
Most Valuable Player: Wilfredo Leon Venero (CUB/Zenit Kazan)
CEV Volleyball Champions League Final Standing
1. Zenit Kazan (RUS)
2. Trentino Diatec (ITA)
3. Cucine Lube Civitanova (ITA)
4. Asseco Resovia Rzeszow (POL)
• CEV Volleyball Champions League
• CEV Volleyball Champions League Final - Match Report