JERUSALEM, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Israeli champions Maccabi Tel Aviv and State Cup holders Hapoel Mate-Asher Akko achieved first-leg home wins in the eighth finals of the men's European Volleyball Confederation (CEV) Challenge Cup on Thursday evening.
Maccabi defeated Greek Cup holders PAOK Thessaloniki 3-1 (25-27, 25-22, 25-17, 32-30).
Russian middle blocker Alexander Safonov contributed a game-high 26 points, while Brazilian outside hitter Gianluca Grasso added 18 for Maccabi. Bram Van Den Dries finished with 23 points for PAOK.
The second-leg match will be played on December 15 in Greece, and the winner on aggregate will meet Cypriot champion Omonia Nicosia or Lindemans Aalst of Belgium in the quarterfinals.
Mate-Asher beat Romanian side Steaua Bucuresti 3-2 (19-25, 15-25, 25-23, 25-19, 15-13).
Evgeniy Bannov contributed 19 points for the Israeli side, while Enosh Shtift added 15. Marc Wilson led Steaua with 19 points.
The second-leg match will take place in Romania on December 15, and the overall winner will face Greece's Olympiacos Piraeus or Bulgaria's Deya Volley Burgas.