The Bulgaria men's volleyball team battled to a 3-1 win over Italy to maintain their 100 per cent record at the Baku 2015 European Games.
The Bulgarians took the first set 25-20 with a series of spectacular spikes and brilliant blocks that had the crowd roaring their approval.
In a tense second set, Italy coach Michele Totire received a red card for protesting too vociferously but his side recovered their composure for a 25-22 win.
The thrilling third set was the longest in the competition so far, with Bulgaria finally sealing it 34-32 after a series of lengthy rallies. They wrapped up the match by winning 25-19 in the final set of the Pool B match.
Bulgaria’s head coach Nikolay Jeliazkov: “This was a really tough game. The key was the third set, and our captain Todor Aleksiev was very important then and throughout the game. He brought a lot of tranquility and control to the team."
In the evening’s second game, Serbia defeated a struggling Azerbaijan side 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-19).
The home nation were cheered by a passionate crowd, but could not match the overall quality of the world no.8 team.
Azerbaijan have now lost both of their Pool A games and their next game against France on Thursday 18 June is critical to their hopes of progressing.
In the earlier games in Pool A, France swept aside Finland 3-0 and Poland ground out a 3-2 win against a tenacious Turkish team.
In Pool B, Russia dominated Belgium in a 3-0 win, while Germany dismissed Slovakia by the same scoreline in an easy win.