Americans battle to first day lead

Johnny Archer & Brandon Shuff

Europe 2 – 3 USA

Europe 3-5 USA
Melling & Van Den Berg 4-5 Archer & Shuff
Appleton & Ekonomopoulos 4-5 Hatch & Van Boening
TEAM USA, the pre-match underdogs took the early lead in the 19th running of the Mosconi Cup as they took the team and pairs matches but lost both of the singles matches in front of a very noisy crowd at London’s York Hall.
It was just the sort of start US captain CJ Wiley was looking for but at this stage the match is anyone’s. The opening match of the competition featured all ten players playing racks at a time and there were plenty of nerves in the early stages – Feijen missed a couple of makeable balls to hand his rack to Dennis Hatch and then Mike Dechaine was forever chasing a lost position before finally missing the 9 ball to give Nick Van den Berg the game.
Some typical Mosconi Cup gamesmanship entered the next one as one of the American players incorrectly accused Nick Ekonomopoulos of nudging the 4 ball after playing an outstanding full table kick shot to deposit the 3 ball.
The Greek rookie went on the miss a tough pot on the 8 ball to give Brandon Shuff the game. That took the score to 3-2 to the USA. Feijen look in much better shape in his next outing as he made the score 3-3.
Shuff won the battle of the rookies in the seventh game as he once again beat Nick Ekonomopoulos and Mike Dechaine was back to take the match for the USA with a tidy 6/9 combination.
The Americans made it two out of two as a game Johnny Archer and Brandon Shuff came back from 4-1 down to beat the Euro pair of Nick Van den Berg and Chris Melling.
It was a nervous affair as all four players missed balls but the American duo stuck with it and capitalised on a few gifts to put themselves into a 2-0 lead.
“It’s never over until it’s over and you must never give up,” said a relived Shuff.
“I’ve never experienced a crowd like this but I have the experienced the pressure but it’s not fading me and I’m doing good. This could be the best team we have had in years, everybody has been saying that, and it does feel good,“ he added.
“We are definitely the underdogs, that is for sure, everybody says it,” added Archer.
“We know that all we have to do is stay together. Absolutely we are good enough. We are a great team, a great bunch of guys, we have a great new guy and some experience so it is a lot of fun,” he concluded.
Niels Feijen got the Europeans back on track in the third match as he took Mike Dechaine to the cleaners, winning 5-0. Dechaine was not at his best, giving his opponent chances throughout and the Dutchman was all over him.
“This match was a must win as we didn’t want to go down 3-0 because that means we’ve lost the session and the best we can get is 3-2 and that puts a lot of pressure on  the other guys,” said Feijen.
“They’re not going to run over us – we’re here to stay. I don’t feel like I’m any better than the other guys and I put my faith in them.”
Unfortunately for the Europeans, Team USA regained their two point leading margin as the heavyweight pairing of Shane Van Boening and Dennis Hatch held on to beat Darren Appleton and Nick Ekonomopoulus 5-4.
The crowd, who nearly blew the roof off the venue in the earlier part of the evening were becoming increasingly subdued and Hatch took full advantage with a few taunting chants of ‘USA, USA!’.
Appleton looked increasingly uncomfortable as they spurned a 2-0 lead and found themselves 4-2 down. The fought back to 4-4 but the Americans ran out the last for the win and a 3-1 lead.
In the final match of the session, World 9 Ball Champion, Darren Appleton had a chance to make amends as he faced US debutante Brandon Shuff and he did just that winning 5-2 to leave the event poised at 3-2 to the Americans.
It was a big point for the Europeans as the alternative was a nasty looking 4-1 deficit which they managed to avoid.
“I went in and we were losing 3-1 which was amazing as we should have won the first doubles match; me and Nikos were a bit unlucky and on another day we’d have won,” said Appleton.
“I felt like we’ve played pretty well but we didn’t break well in the first half of the evening.
3-2 is probably a fair score but winning that last match was massive so at least we’ve something to build on for tomorrow,” he concluded.
Play continues tomorrow with more doubles and singles matches commencing 7.00pm UK time.
The title sponsor of the Mosconi Cup is, tables are supplied by Diamond Billiards, balls by Aramith, Simonis 860 is the Official Cloth and Predator are the Official Cue, and chalk supplier.