Europe on Brink of Mosconi Glory

Ralf Souquet

Team Europe look set to retain the Mosconi Cup for the first time in the event's storied history as they took the Saturday evening session 2-1 to take a 9-5 lead into the final day at the Hilton Hotel in Portomaso, Malta.

Rodney Morris gave Team USA a massive shot in the arm in the opening match of the Saturday evening session as he won his first match of the tournament, defeating Niels Feijen 5-3 to reduce the European lead to two points.

Wins though for captain Alex Lely's two lynchpins, Ralf Souquet and Mika Immonen, left Team USA reeling and needing to win six of Sunday's seven games. There are two doubles and one singles match on Sunday afternoon and that may be enough.

A defeat in the opening game of the season would have left the Americans with an absolute mountain to climb, but Morris, making his sixth Mosconi Cup appearance looked all business as he went about his task.

Feijen won the lag but came up dry on his break and a fired up Morris ran out to take the opener. Despite Feijen getting to the table in the second, it was the American's rack as they both had attempts on the 8 ball before Morris fired it home.

A 1/9 combo in the third game gave Morris a 3-0 lead, but the Hawaiian though, scratched in the next and with ball in hand, Feijen ran through the table to reduce the deficit to two racks.

That became just one rack in the next as following a safety exchange, Morris left the 3 ball on for Feijen and the Dutchman ran out.

A dry break in the next gave Feijen the opportunity and he tied Morris up in a snooker. Morris returned the favour and always had Feijen on the run. Eventually he ended the rack with a tidy 7/9 carom to reach the hill at 4-2.

A bad attempt by Morris to tie up the cue ball behind the black 8 to snooker Feijen on the 4 ball failed miserably and Feijen cleared to go 3-4.

Morris got nothing on his next break and Feijen pushed out. The Dutchman eventually missed the 1 ball and Morris, back at the table, secured the point with a 2/9 combo.

"I'm happy. I just wanted to enjoy myself and I kept thinking even if I lose every match if they call my name I will always be prepared,' said Morris.

"They put me out there first and they call me the not-so-silent assassin. I can play as fast as anyone but you make mistakes playing fast. Even though I hate Ralf in the Mosconi Cup, he's one of the guys that I want to watch because he takes his time. You have to slow down if you want to win.

"In singles you see the guys settle down and get into a rhythm so you will see some good stuff from us all."

Ralf Souquet made it four wins out of four as he beat Shane Van Boening 5-2 to put Europe within three points of retaining the Mosconi Cup.

"I'm very pleased with the result but I wasn't so pleased with the game as I made several mistakes at the beginning and couldn't handle the shot clock,' said Souquet after the match.

"I couldn't pace myself into the shot clock but luckily at the end I calmed down a bit.

"You can only win as a team and lose as a team. It doesn't matter who gets the Most Valuable Player award as long as one of our team gets it.

"It was very important I won after Niels unfortunately lost his match against Rodney. There's still a long way to go - three points for us, but right now we're just fighting for the next one."

The turning point came at 3-2 when Van Boening, who has little or no hearing, incurred a time foul when he lost track of the time and could not hear the warning sound.

Souquet ran out with ball in hand and when Van Boening produced a dry break in the next, the writing was on the wall for Team USA.

In the final match of the session it was a rematch for Jeremy Jones and Mika Immonen and there was bad blood in the air following an altercation after their doubles match earlier today.

The Finn got the better of the opening encounters and at 3-2 ahead, Immonen had ball in hand as Jones failed to get out of a snooker.

However, the first beep of the shot clock count-down sounded just as he released his cue and he subsequently missed the pot. Jones made no mistakes as he ran out to level at 3-all.

The American made an illegal break in the next and with the 1 ball hovering over the edge of the pocket, it's an easy start for Immonen and the 2-ball just falls over with his next shot. The rest is plain sailing for the European, who moves to the hill.

Immonen is smiling after the break as he closed in on another victory. It comes early with a 4/9 carom as the 9-ball disappeared into the side pocket. Another session goes Europe's way and they finish just two points from glory.

‘The beginning was bad and I had a bad break then he played well and was 2-0 up. I had to fight back, I thought I was going to go up 4-2 but made a bad positional error so it got back to 3-3.

‘But I was breaking better than him and that was the edge. I think we're going to sleep better than them. We just have to keep fighting, stay humble and do what we have done all year - winning matches.

‘One year I won four out of five matches and was Most Valuable Player and I think me and Ralf are fighting for the MVP. Hopefully we can win the Cup then we will see who is the MVP.'

Photo courtesy of Lawrence Lustig - Matchroom Sport