GB see off Albania
May 19, 2012 16:52 pm
Great Britain's perfect start to the international season continued in Crawley as they saw off Albania 3-0 to move through to the next phase of the European Championships.
Harry Brokking's men won the first leg 3-0 in Tirana last weekend and were equally untroubled here, with the Dutch tactician opting to rotate his squad as he starts to think about trimming it from 16 to 12 ahead of the Olympics.
His usual go-to man, powerful outside Dami Bakare, again shone, though, terrorising Albania with a string of spikes, while fringe players such as Matt Howe and Yasir Sliti did their chances no harm at all. As a result of the win, GB will take their place in the next stage of the competition in September, and they will be pleased to have done so without the need for a golden set.
Despite their whitewash win last weekend, they knew any sort of defeat here would result in a one-off set, be it by one set or three. And with that in mind, the hosts were keen to stamp their authority from the off and remove that possibility.
With Brokking rotating his side and putting Kieran O'Malley in the setting position ahead of captain Ben Pipes, the early points were tight until Britain pulled ahead to 16-12.
Bakare then found his range wide out and two punishing spikes underlined his potency at the net, before some desperate defence allowed Andy Pink to find the ground with a piercing one-hander of his own. With a gap established, they were never in trouble, and Bakare closed the set out at 25-17.
The second set started in less convincing fashion, with Albania opening up a 3-0 lead but, once Bakare found his range - he scored four of GB's first five points - things levelled out.
The scores remained level through to 11-11 and that signalled the start of a charge that put the home side out at 16-12 and then 21-14, with Jason Haldane serving a vicious ace and Sliti making the most of a chance to replace Bakare by hitting four winning spikes.
The star man and O'Malley were then brought back on to see out the set 25-17. A procession looked on the cards at the start of the third set as GB moved out to 6-2, but a sudden inability to find the floor started to cost them as Albania made a fist of things, despite Pink generating some unexpected power from the edge of the court.
Haldane returned to serve at 19-all and helped lay on two points, though, and with a 21-19 advantage, his men were able to edge over the line 25-22.
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