Europe square it after 2-1 Mosconi Cup session

Imran Majid and Nick van den Berg

Team Europe had an excellent Friday afternoon session as they won two of three matches to square the 2006 Mosconi Cup at three points apiece in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Cruise Terminal in Holland.

England's Imran Majid and local pick Nick van den Berg were the heroes of the hour as they saw off the dynamic American pairing of Rodney Morris and Earl Strickland in a 6-5 thriller.

The American duo carried a Mosconi Cup record of six wins and no defeats into the match but some uncharacteristic errors from them coupled with nerves of steel from their opponents carried the Europeans over the line.

In the opening match of the afternoon, European captain Johan Ruijsink sent out his big guns and Ralf Souquet and Mika Immonen had too much in their arsenal, disposing of US rookies John Schmidt and Mike Davis 6-2.

That leveled the overall score up at 2-2 and the Europeans were full of hope for the second match as newcomer David Alcaide (Spain) and Germany's Thomas Engert faced American captain Johnny Archer and the stylish Corey Deuel.

In the end it was one way traffic as the Deuel/ Archer axis ran away with it 6-1.

European Team Manager, Johan Ruijsink was quietly pleased with his team's performance following the close of the session.

“Actually this afternoon was in the planning – only the second match didn't go to plan. It was very important to keep the pressure on the USA, he said.

“If it went 4-2 then 5-2, the pressure's off them and it becomes very tough for us. The way it's going I think it will come down to Sunday night.”

Immonen / Souquet 6 – 2 Schmidt / Davis

FORMER World Champions Ralf Souquet and Mika Immonen pulled the score back to 2-2 with a comfortable victory against newcomers John Schmidt and Mike Davis.

Souquet and Immonen triumphed by 6-2 in the opening doubles match on Day Two of the Mosconi Cup.

“We had a bad start but fought hard and when we had our chances we took them," said Souquet. "The most important thing is to enjoy it and have some fun and not put yourself under too much pressure.

"We've all been playing for 20 years or so and at the Mosconi Cup is the best time to show what you've got. The Americans were very unlucky today but yesterday so were we."

After the first day America had led 2-1 and captain Johnny Archer called on his two debutants to try to extend that lead.

Schmidt and Davis knew they would have to be at their best to secure a point and Schmidt won the lag but there was no shot available for Davis so he was forced to push out. However, Europe could not build on that and America was soon at the table before they gained a 1-0 lead to put Europe under immediate pressure.

The Americans quickly doubled their advantage but a mistake by Schmidt, when he scratched in the third, brought Europe back to the table and Immonen made it 1-2.

Europe broke in the fourth and Souquet pocketed both the 1-ball and 6-ball and gave Immonen a shot at the 2-ball. From there the frame was a formality and for the second successive rack Immonen dispatched the 9-ball to bring the tie all square at 2-2.

The fifth rack was an error-filled one as Davis scratched trying to make the yellow 1 safe but Immonen left the red three hanging over the pocket.

Schmidt sunk the same ball but then drew back too far and scratched into the left centre pocket to give the Europeans ball in hand and they ran out the rest of the rack to go 3-2 in front.

It soon became 4-2 as Souquet and Immonen began to turn up the heat on the American duo. Schmidt and Davis were now struggling and the Europeans were gifted the seventh rack.

Davis pocketed six balls off the break, but this included the cue ball and, with ball in hand, Europe gratefully accepted this early Christmas present and moved to the hill at 5-2.

Souquet's break in the eighth rack saw the 1-ball disappear with a shot at the blue two for Immonen and this was the chance the Europeans needed to win the point and make it 2-2 overall.

Alcaide / Engert 1 - 6 Archer / Deuel

TEAM America regained their lead with a comfortable 6-1 success in the second match of Day Two.

Captain Johnny Archer and Corey Deuel were never in any trouble in their doubles meeting with David Alcaide and Thomas Engert to put USA 3-2 ahead.

“I feel I'm playing good right now and so is Johnny and he kept me in line," said Deuel.

“The Mosconi is the only time we get to play doubles and it's nice to play for here for your country.

“To play in this event is a real dream for all US players. We all want to make the team and after missing a couple of years, it's good to be back."

They won the lag but with no shot on the 1-ball, they were forced to play safe. The Americans then got a stroke of fortune as Engert as did well to pot the 1-ball but the cue ball took an unlucky deflection off the two and went into the bottom right pocket.

That enabled Deuel to eventually make it 1-0 before the same player finished the second rack off to give America a 2-0 lead for the second successive match.

Unlike the first encounter of the second day when Schmidt and Davis then capitulated after being 2-0 ahead, Archer and Deuel were playing at the top of their games.

A fine shot from Deuel saw him roll the 8-ball down the rail and that gave Archer the simple task of downing the 9-ball for a 3-0 advantage.

Europe played themselves into trouble in the fourth rack when Alcaide under hit his pot on the 6-ball and left Engert facing a tricky bank shot on the 7-ball into the right middle pocket.

When that attempt missed it left the Americans with an easy task to sink the final three balls for an emphatic 4-0 lead and in sight of the first whitewash victory of the 2006 Mosconi Cup.

Engert had a touch of fortune in the next when a table-length bank shot disposed of the 2-ball but his teammate did him few favours as Alcaide potted the 3-ball but hooked his partner and gave the German no sight of the pink 4.

He was left with a hit and hope shot but this time luck deserted him as the ball remained hanging over the bottom right pocket for the Americans to move 5-0 ahead.

A rare mistake from Archer in the sixth gave Alcaide a shot at the yellow one and that set up a first rack for Europe as they avoided a 6-0 humiliation but still had a great deal of work to get back into the match.

Archer lost position going from the 6-ball to the 7-ball in the seventh rack and left Deuel with a bank shot. He subsequently missed but left the cue ball right behind the black 8 with the 7-ball tight on the bottom cushion.

Alcaide failed to make contact with the 7-ball and that proved to be Europe's last shot of the tie as America regained their overall lead.

Van den Berg / Majid 6 – 5 Strickland / Morris

EUROPEAN duo Nick van den Berg and Imran Majid stunned the American pairing of Earl Strickland and Rodney Morris to level up the overall score at 3-3.

The match ended 6-5 as Strickland and Morris suffered their first ever doubles defeat in the Mosconi Cup after six previous victories.

“It was a very close match, nip and tuck all the way and we had a couple of good breaks," said Majid.

"They had won six consecutive Mosconi Cup doubles matches – they were the best doubles pair in the world before me and Nick!

"We've got nothing to lose; we're relaxed, playing our natural game and we shoot to kill."

Strickland and Morris made a bright start by quickly moving 2-0 ahead, the first coming after van den Berg had correctly been adjudged to have brushed the 8-ball with his cue while trying to make an incredible swerve shot to hit the blue 2.

At first glance the decision looked harsh but Sky Sports' Super Slo-motion camera showed the 8-ball had clearly moved and that eagle-eyed referee Michaela Tabb had been correct with her call.

Europe registered the third rack, much to the delight of the colourful and noisy Dutch crowd and then had an early chance in the fourth as Morris scratched off the break to give the Europeans ball in hand.

However, with the cue ball tight on the side rail, Majid missed a shot at the 9-ball before Strickland opted to play safe with the 9-ball on the bottom rail. Van den Berg tried an optimistic table-length bank shot but was unsuccessful and Morris stepped up to steal the rack for America.

Europe comfortably ran through the fifth, but still trailed 3-2 in this match. They were presented a chance in the sixth rack as Strickland scratched while trying to play the 2-ball safe and Majid sunk a difficult 9-ball after van den Berg had slightly over hit his shot from 8 to 9.

The Europeans had no shot on at the beginning of the seventh but three mistakes from Morris, when he missed the 1-ball and red 3, then hooked himself when back at the table, put the Americans in trouble.

Strickland tried a two-rail escape but fouled and Majid again held his nerve to pot the decisive ball for the second successive rack as his side moved ahead at 4-3. But a poor safety shot by van den Berg on the blue 2, followed by a fine shot from Strickland to pot the same ball, brought the score back to 4-4.

Europe moved to the hill by taking the next but Majid played a poor safety on the red three and that enabled USA to win the rack with the score balanced at 5-5.

There was no shot for the Europeans and van den Berg's push out left Strickland in trouble. He missed his next attempt and then slammed his cue on the table in frustration. As he walked back to the table he then shouted for someone in the crowd to 'shut up' after they had taunted him.

That proved to be the American pair's last shot of the match as Europe cleared the rest of the table before van den Berg earned another point for the hosts.