Serbia's sensational comeback win over France leaves no team unbeaten after Day 5 of the 2021 FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League which continues at Italy's Adriatic resort of Rimini with renewed engrossment after as many as six teams tie in first place of the standings on 4-1 records.
Fabulous Serbia stop France as VNL heats up
Six teams on 4-1 with Russia leading; Poland stun USA in three; Netherlands bag first win
Published 11:06, 04 Jun 2021
Aleksandar Atanasijevic was on fire with 67% (20/30) in attack and a total contribution of 24 points - though it was France's Stephen Boyer that collected the match high of 26 - as Serbia reacted after finding themselves trailing by two sets.
And after today's performance Nikola Jovovic leads the list of the tournament's best setters, while Marko Ivovic climbed to fourth place in the overall scorers table thanks to his 15 points.
Serbia's overall attacking was impressive, but it was some spectacular digging skills and a bit of monster-blocking at the start of the tie-break that gave the Balkan side a 5-0 lead that France could never recover from.
Defending champions Russia seized the opportunity to emerge just slightly above the pack of table leaders after their 3-0 sweep of Australia.
Despite coach Tuomas Sammelvuo resting some of his key players that had beaten USA the previous night, Australia were not up to the task as Dmitriy Muserskiy and Victor Poletaev shared top-scoring honours with 14 points each.
Maxim Mikhaylov sat the match out, meaning he dropped from the top of the overall best scorers' table, overtaken by Nimir Abdel-Aziz of the Netherlands - the only player to have broken the 100-mark after five days of play.
Also at 4-1, just behind the Russians in the standings, are now Poland, following a stunning sweep of 2019 VNL silver medallists USA in straight sets.
The Americans never really recovered after the previous night's defeat to Russia and coach John Speraw shifted his lineup around a bit - the end result back-to-back defeats that leave USA at 2-3.
VNL rookies Slovenia, meanwhile, continue to quietly and unobtrusively create waves and are picking up huge momentum in their very first appearance in the competition - their latest victim Argentina, who they got the better of with pressure from the service line.
It was also a historic day for the Netherlands, who collected their first win of the tournament - now leaving Australia the only winless side, at the bottom of the table. Like Slovenia, the Netherlands too are making their first ever appearance at the VNL.
Nimir just didn't get the chance to rotate for serving at the end of the fourth set and Germany forced a tie-break. But the Dutch this time held out, with some high scoring shared between Thijs Ter Horst (26 points) and Nimir Abdel-Aziz (24, including 5 aces).
In addition to climbing top of the scorers list, Nimir also leads the best servers table with 15 aces in five matches.
Also quietly plodding along with a remarkably steady and convincing pace are Brazil, who forced Japan to a 3-0 defeat in just 86 minutes with a strong scoring performance of 16 points by Wallace de Souza who attacked for 58% (15/26).
In other Day 5 VNL action, Italy let a second win slip out of their hands as Iran produced a solid performance to down the hosts in four sets on the back of some great blocking that produced 10 points (five from Mojarad Aliasghar alone) and high scoring by Saber Kazemi on 24 points.
And Canada wrapped up the day with a straight-set win over Bulgaria - the North Americans advancing to 3-2 and the Balkan side dropping to 1-4. Though his performance was not enough for Bulgaria, Tsvetan Sokolov collected a match high of 23 points to occupy third place in the list of best scorers.