The match started with two powerful aces from Ivan Zaytsev, but even though Cuba played well in patches, the European side looked more concentrated than their opponents. Italy stretched into an 8-4 lead, and despite a mini-comeback from Cuba, they held on to take the set 25-20.
Set two saw the Azzurri lead 8-4 again, with Zaytsev and Simone Parodi spiking well, while Dragan Travica and Emanuele Birarelli blocked superbly. Cuba struck through Sandobal Isbel Mesa and Abreu Rolando Cepada, but it wasn’t enough. Italy won the second set 25-17.
It was 8-4 Italy once again in the final set, and despite Cuba finally raising their game and getting back to 16-15, they could never quite get level. Despite fighting hard, Italy shut out the set 25-23 to win the match.
Zaytsev was the match’s top scorer with 12 points. It was a superb performance from the Europeans, and the stands of the PalaRuffini were packed with 5,000 spectators cheering coach Mauro Berruto‘s side.
The two sides meet in the same venue on Saturday at 19:00 GMT for the second of their World League fixtures.
To read more news from this competition click on World League 2013 M.