An inspired Leandro Vissotto helped Minas win the second match of the Superliga Finals (Photo: Eliezer Esportes/MTC)

The return of star opposite Leandro Vissotto gave Fiat Gerdau Minas new energy as the reigning Brazilian Cup champions pushed the Finals of the country’s Men’s Superliga to a third and decisive match on Sunday.

With Vissotto back after recovering from a shoulder injury that severely limited his time on court over the last few weeks, the four-time Superliga winners defeated reigning world champions Sada Cruzeiro Volei 3-2 (21-25, 25-22, 25-22, 21-25, 18-16) in Uberlandia. They had lost the first leg of the final by the same score last weekend.

The third and final match of the series between Minas and Sada Cruzeiro will take place next Sunday, May 8, again in Uberlandia.

A 2010 world champion, Vissotto celebrated his 39th birthday on Saturday. In great form, he hit at a 71% efficiency rate in offence to leave the court with a match-high 31 points (30 kills, one block). The London 2012 Olympic silver medallist received the Player of the Match award.

“It was a fantastic match,” the opposite said after the match. “We are very aware that we haven’t won anything yet, but what we did today was big. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we showed today what we can do if we give our best. We want to win this title very much and today we made an important step in that direction.”


Vissotto hits against Sada Cruzeiro's block (Photo: Agencia i7/Sada Cruzeiro)

Vissotto was responsible for 40% of the points scored by Minas players. His most productive teammates were outside hitter Henrique Honorato and middle blocker Matheus Pinta, who registered nine points each.

“It was really special to play the final here, in my hometown,” said Honorato, who grew up in Uberlandia, a city located 500km west of Belo Horizonte. “I felt that playing in front of my family and friends made me a little nervous at the beginning, but I managed to relax during the match. Hopefully it will be easier to handle the pressure when we return next weekend.”

A key player in Sada Cruzeiro’s victory in the first leg of the Finals, Rio 2016 Olympic champion opposite Wallace de Souza was again his team’s top scorer. The 34-year-old player, who was the MVP of the Volleyball Nations League in 2021, scored 23 points including 21 kills and two blocks.

The MVP of last year’s FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship, Cuban outside hitter Miguel Angel Lopez came next with 22 points (18 kills, four aces). Outside hitter Rodriguinho Leao was Sada Cruzeiro’s third best scorer with 13 points (ten kills, two blocks, one ace).

“We had our opportunity in the fifth set, when we were winning 13-10, but we didn’t take it,” said Sada Cruzeiro and Brazil national team setter Fernando ‘Cachopa’ Kreling. “Minas fought hard and did better at the end, but in a tie-breaker, it’s always about the details. We left the court with a bad taste in our mouths, but we realise it was a very well played and close match.”

Next Sunday’s encounter will be the eighth between the two teams this season. Sada Cruzeiro have been the most successful, winning five of the first seven meetings, including in the Finals of the Mineiro and South American Club Championships.