Panathinaikos pulled off a dramatic victory in the semi final of the CEV Cup against Italian side Cuneo, winning 3 sets to 2 and qualifying for the final.
PAO were down by 2 sets to 0 but spurred by their home supporters, managed to come back and take the win.
In the final (played Monday morning, Melbourne time), the Greeks will face Lokomotiv-Belogorie Belgorod, who scored a 3-1 victory against Unicaja Almeria.
Bre Banca Lannutti Cuneo (ITA) 2 – Panathinaikos 3 (25-23, 25-18, 15-25, 20-25, 6-15)
Seeking the first European Cup ever, PAO started in nervous fashion, going down early in the first set 7-1, as Cuneo was lead by Belgian pair Wout Wijsmans and Frank Depestele.
Wijsmans, a six year Cuneo veteran, was effective even from the back row and the Italians maintained a reassuring margin, leading 14-6.
Colombian star Liberman Agamez orchestrated a fight back for PAO scoring on three consecutive rallies, and helping PAO reduce the defecit to 17-15.
Despite the comeback, Wijsmans converted Cuneo’s second set point giving the Italians the crucial first set, 25-23.
Poor PAO service allowed Cuneo to race to an early lead in the second set which they expanded to 16-10 and then 25-18 in what was ultimately a one-sided affair.
Cuneo, one set away a place in the final went into the third break with supreme confidence.
But the greens came out firing in the third set, racing to their first lead of the match, 16-11, in a mistake-riddled period.
PAO stepped up the intensity, increasing their lead to 21-11, seeing the Italian captain remarkably benched as the Greek side closed out the set 25-15, sending the home fans into raptures.
PAO seized the fourth set, completing a remarkable come back 25-20.
The Italians had few answers for the greens’ defensive set up which was blocking each Italian advance.
The greens ran out to a quick lead, with the side seemingly successful on all attacks, including service and even hopeful lobs, 8-3.
The Italian reception was quite weak allowing PAO to establish an unassailable lead.
With Herpe smashing the winning point home, 15-6, PAO sent their fans into delirium.
Colombian Agamez was the highest scorer of the match with 24 points, whilst Wijsmans contributed at the most with 19 points for Cuneo.
Panathinaikos’ captain Pantaleon commented after the match: “I am very happy that we won this match, especially because we came back from behind and struggled a lot to achieve that goal. We played with all our hearts, doing our best, and so we managed to accomplish such an ambitious task. I think time has definitely come for our club to seize a European Cup; the crowd was amazing this afternoon, we played in front of so many fans of our Panathinaikos, it was such a great emotion, I can hardly describe it”.
There was no good news in the semi final of the Challenge Cup, as EA Patras, playing in Turkey, went down to local side Arkas Izmir in straight sets. E.A. Patras lost 22-25, 14-25, 19-25.
Iraklis are in the Final Four of the Champions League which will be played in the Czech Republic, Prague on April 4 and 5.