Europe maintains Mosconi Cup Lead

Earl Strickland

Team Europe maintained their two point lead after day two of the 2008 Mosconi Cup as Finland's Mika Immonen took the final point of the session, a crucial 5-0 win over Earl Strickland in the captains' pick match.

Immonen entered the arena coming off the back of a doubles defeat with Mark Gray but was confidence personified as he played some composed pool to defeat Strickland.

After winning the opener, Europe dropped the next two as Strickland came from 4-1 down to beat home town hero Tony Drago and then Jones and Archer defeated Immonen and Gray.

In a repeat of yesterday's opening doubles match, the European pairing of Niels Feijen and Ralf Souquet once again took on World Cup of Pool champions Rodney Morris and Shane Van Boening and the match followed exactly the same pattern.

The Americans found themselves in a 3-1 lead but let it slip as Team Europe won four consecutive racks to take the tie in what was a bitter blow to the USA.

Souquet and Feijen grew in confidence as the Americans began to play tentatively and they closed out the match with some solid play to leave their opponents reeling.

In a feast for fans of speed pool, the Americans gained their first point of the day as the combustible Earl Strickland rose from the ashes to beat Tony Drago 5-4 after trailing 4-1.

The Maltese star sped through the racks, cashing in on some uncharacteristic misses from the Pearl, but the match turned when Drago tried to long pot the 2 ball rail first when 4-1 up and missed it completely to give ball in hand to Strickland.

Drago scratched off his break in the next and a missed 1 ball in the eighth game saw the match level at 4-4. Strickland's never say die attitude saw him through as Drago once again scratched on the break and with ball in hand the American ran out for the win.

‘I started off well then let things slip a bit but he got the lead and then some bad breaks. I played well on the home stretch and that's what you have to do,' said Strickland.

‘I want everyone to play well and to enjoy it. I know I'm an animated person and maybe I can make people not like me but that's just the way I am.

‘I think we should have a 15-second shot clock and I'm sure it would make it more exciting. If a guy clicks on the TV and sees a guy shooting he doesn't click the channel.

‘I wish we had a shot clock where you have to run. I really love pool and it really should be played fast. These guys had better not celebrate yet as this table is breaking difficult.'

There was more joy for the Americans in the next as Johnny Archer and Jeremy Jones made light work of Mika Immonen and Mark Gray to pull one back as the score moved to 4-3 in favour of the Europeans.

As with most matches there is a critical point and this one's came in the third game when Immonen missed a simple 7 ball down the rail to hand the American's a 3-0 lead. The USA gelled as a team, bailing each other out when position was lost, and they ran out comfortable 5-1 winners.

Jeremy Jones said ‘I'm very pleased we won and anyone that thinks this is not going to be a dog fight is wrong. This will come down to the end as everyone wants to win the matches.'

‘We got fortunate with Earl's match earlier and he played really well. I made a couple of mistakes but Jeremy helped me out. But we've got a lot of fight, just like the Europeans last year. It's going to come down to the end so the fans are going to be watching something really good,' added Archer.

In the final match, Mika Immonen pulled out the stops to beat Earl Strickland as the American once again pushed his behaviour to the brink. Referee Michaela Tabb warned the talkative Earl that she would foul him if he continued.

With victory complete for Immonen, Strickland flipped him the finger as well as his team mates and the crowd.

Commented the Finn, "I really needed to dig deep in this match. I lost the doubles match with Mark Gray and made some mistakes. I really think I was responsible for the last loss so I had to rise the occasion.

"You definitely hear the noise of the crowd and it's pretty intense but that's what makes the Mosconi Cup such a great tournament.

"I know I made some tricky outs so luck did not play any part with it. He (Strickland) says I got lucky but maybe if I beat him 15 times in a row is it really luck?

"I like playing him and ironically he is one of my idols. It's an honour to play him.

"We were even for tonight and if we're even every day then we will win the cup by two points. This is still a great finish for the day.

Photo courtesy Lawrence Lustig / Matchroom Sport

"We're here as a team so I expect all of us will do something crazy if we win."