Europe Extends Lead at PartyPoker.com Mosconi Cup
The European pairing of Mika Immonen (Finland) and England’s Mark Gray delivered a crushing blow to heart of their American opponents as they came from 4-1 down to beat Jeremy Jones and Johnny Archer in a thrilling encounter at the Hilton Hotel, Portomaso, Malta.
A win for the USA would have left the match finely poised at 6-5 going into the Saturday evening session, but instead it means that Europe now have a three point lead and look solid favourites to retain the PartyPoker.com Mosconi Cup.
The Americans got off to the worst possible start chasing a two point deficit as Rodney Morris and a silently imploding Earl Strickland were well beaten 5-1 by the consistent Ralf Souquet and Niels Feijen, who won their third consecutive doubles match.
A dry break from Morris allowed the Europeans to clear the table to take a confidence boosting 2-0 lead. That soon became 3-0 when the Hawaiian scratched, going of two rails to escape a snooker.
Strickland had his first shot of the match as he broke off in the fourth game. A good safety from Morris set up the run out and the USA had their first rack of the day.
Another clearance following some safety proved that Lely’s persistent pairing of Souquet and Feijen was proving spot on.
Morris’s break, in what was the final rack of the match, came up dry and with a clear path to the 9 ball, Souquet and Feijen didn’t hesitate to clear the table to take a 5-1 victory.
‘We had a pretty good start and got some good rolls but that’s what you need in short races. But with this crowd in the back nothing can go wrong,’ said Souquet.
‘The score is just 6-3 and there are still a lot of matches to come. Team USA are always capable of coming back. This was a big point to start the day but it’s not over until the fat lady sings.’
Shane Van Boening put in an excellent performance in the second match of the day as he came to the American’s rescue with a fine win over Tony Drago. The South Dakota Kid looked composed and relaxed as he shook off the pressure and delivered some solid outs.
Drago, by contrast, struggled with his break shot and his overall game was second to Van Boening, whose calm nature was his biggest asset.
‘There’s big pressure and this is a top event. Tony Drago is playing in his home town with everyone rooting for him so that’s a lot of pressure,’ said Van Boening.
“I played good and only made one mistake then I changed my break and that worked out pretty good so that’s what I will do.
“The European team might have got a bit lucky over the last couple of days. We’re going to try our best, I’ve got a lot of heart and I hope my team have got a lot of heart as well. We will show we have,’ he added.
That moved the overall score to 6-4 in favour of the Europeans, leaving the final match of the Saturday afternoon session a ‘must win’ situation for Team USA.
The seasoned Mosconi Cup pairing of Johnny Archer and Jeremy Jones, with 17 Mosconi Cup appearances between them, seemed to have got the USA challenge right back on track as they raced into a 4-1 lead.
The dry break from Europe didn’t offer the Americans much and a safety battle ensued on the 2 ball. Archer, though, missed a thin cut on it and left it hanging in the pocket. The Europeans then held their nerve to complete the run out and get back to 2-4 down.
It was still America’s for the taking and breaking for the match, Jones came up dry and Immonen and Gray kicked into gear to clear the table for 3-4.
Europe got back to the table following a dry break, and it was Immonen who ended the rack as he fluked the 9 ball into the middle pocket as he used it to hold position for the 6 ball. That took the match to hill-hill.
With no shot on the 2 ball following the break, there was a safety exchange. Immonen’s snooker saw Archer escape. Gray then laid another good snooker and Jones’ escape left the 2 ball on.
From there, the Europeans ran out for a wonderful victory that left American hopes reeling on the ropes.
‘We played them last night and lost 5-1 and didn’t do much wrong. Again today we weren’t getting the rolls but I knew if we had the chances we would take them,’ said Gray.
“Luckily the US choked under pressure a few times. It’s good to have someone of Mika’s calibre as your partner and he’s just won the US Open and Japan Open so it’s great to have someone with that knowledge with you.”
Immonen added, ‘That’s one of the best comebacks in my Mosconi Cup history. The crowd really remind you to keep the fighting spirit going. All credit to Mark he is a rookie but stuck in there and we were able to come back from 4-1 down.’
Feijen / Souquet 5 – 1 Morris / Strickland
Tony Drago 2 – 5 Shane Van Boening
Immonen / Gray 5 – 4 Archer / Jones