It was a strong performance by the Poland team which is considered as one of the favourites to take home one of the three medals here.
Bartosz Kurek scored a match-high 18 points as one of three Polish players with double figures in the scores. Zbigniew Bartman and Michal Winiarski contributed 15 and 13 points respectively. Italy’s Cristian Savani finished with 15 points while Michal Lasko and Ivan Zaytzev closed the match with 14 and 13 tallies.
Poland had an effectiveness of 41 percent in their attacks compared to 29 by the defeated Italians. In the serves category, the winners held a slight advantage in serving aces (7-6) and also in blocks (8-6). They made 23 unforced errors to 30 by the Italians.
Thousands of Polish fans turned Earls Court into almost a home game for their team, who raced into an early lead in the opening set, thanks to the spiking ability of Zbigniew Bartman, Bartosz Kurek and Marcin Mozdzonek. Italy then levelled through the strong serving of Luigi Mastrangelo and the spiking of Michal Lasko and captain Cristian Savani.
The two teams then traded points, with Piotr Nowakowski, Ivan Zaystev and Alessandro Fei scoring wellwith Italy carrying a narrow lead towards the end of the match. Fei scored with his spike to seal the set 25-21.
The two teams, both combining great attacking power with strong defences, continued to be closely matched in the second set. Poland pulled ahead through Michal Winiarski and Kurek spiking skills, while the brilliant all-round game of Savani kept Italy in touch. But this time, Poland resisted the attacks better and kept their lead with the blocking of Nowakowski being a key factor.
After going 16-9 ahead, Poland looked comfortable and Italy made too many mistakes. Two Winiarski spikes secured Poland the set 25-20.
The third set was a close affair. Italian setter Dragan Travica continued to expertly create chances for spikers Zaytsev and the intelligent Savani, while Poland struck through Bartman and Kurek. One point divided the teams for most of the game, but Poland clung to a narrow lead to take the set 25-23.
Poland carried their dominance into the fourth set. Kurek, Winiarski and Bartman shared the glory with their unstoppable spiking, and Italy seemed to tire as they made mistakes. Poland stormed into a 16-6 lead and Italy simply had no response. Poland took the set 25-14, with the winning point appropriately being an ace serve from the match’s top scorer, Kurek.
Poland face Bulgaria in their second preliminary round match on Tuesday, while Italy will meet Argentina.