Baku, June 24, AZERTAC
Azerbaijan swept aside the Netherlands to claim their place in the semi-finals of the European Games.
The hosts raced into a 7-1 lead early in the first set, and held on for a 25-21 win despite a strong response from the Dutch side.
The packed crowd in Crystal Hall cheered on the home team as they narrowly secured the second set 25-23, before dominating the third 25-14 to take the game.
The game turned into a shootout between Azerbaijan's Polina Rahimova and Dutchwoman Lonneke Sloetjes as two of the tournament’s top scorers battled for supremacy.
"This was an important game, you get all or nothing. Our aim is getting medals and we have a chance to do that, as we continue to play in the competition," said Rahimova afterwards.
Azerbaijan will now face Turkey, who beat the hosts 3-0 during their last group Pool A game, in Thursday night's semi-final.
But Rahimova insists they have learned from that game and added: "Conclusions after that game were made, we have worked on our mistakes and we are ready to beat them up."
In the evening's second quarter-final, Serbia beat Belgium 3-2 in a five-set thriller and were made to work hard for their victory.
Serbia took the first set 25-22 before the Belgians battled back to win the second set 25-19.
Serbia – who topped Pool B with four wins from five games – then responded in kind to win the third set 25-14, but Belgium bounced back once more to win the fourth set 25-21 thanks to some brilliant blocking.
Belgium squandered three match points, before Serbia finally prevailed 19-17 in the fifth set after being awarded to a controversial point for a net touch.
"I want to congratulate Belgium. They are always difficult to play against and never give up", said Serbia's Tijana Malesevic.
"It was a very emotional game and very tiring, but now we have one day to rest, to prepare our minds and our bodies for the semi-final. We are looking forward to playing again."
Serbia will take on Poland at 17:00 on Thursday 25 June for a place in the gold medal match.
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