Longoni 9 Ball League – Spain And Poland Win Through To Final

Team Spain

The final of the inaugural Longoni 9-Ball League will be contested by Spain and Poland following their semi-final victories on Friday evening in Lasko. They were contrasting matches with Spain running out comfortable winners against Bosnia & Herzegovina, while Poland enjoyed a gritty battle against Germany that was altogether more strategic.

Opening the proceedings were the Spanish pair of David Alcaide and Francisco Sanchez Ruiz who were up against a Bosnia Herzegovina team of Sanjin Pehlivanovic and Ajdin Piknjac. Spain took an early 2-0 after a couple of BiH misses allowed them the opportunity.

The Bosnians though rode their luck to complete a run out for 2-1 and then a dry break from Alcaide gave them the chance to run all 9 balls on the table which they executed perfectly to draw level at 2-2. A couple of small but critical errors from BiH gave the table to Spain in the next two racks and they opened up a 4-2 lead.

A great break from Piknjac set up a run out and they made no mistakes to reduce arrears to 4-3. Spain though, took the next for 5-3 and that soon became 6-3, leaving Bosnia Herzegovina with it all to do. It was becoming a romp for the Spanish duo as they raced through the next rack for a 7-3 lead.

There was more woe for BiH in the next as Piknjac’s break was illegal although dry as well. Playing with a degree of telepathy, Spain cleared the table to reach the hill. With Bosnian resistance all but gone, the Spanish pair concluded an easy 9-3 win.

Commented Sanchez Ruiz, “It wasn’t easy because we know they’re good but we played so comfortably as we’ve practiced two months together. We’ve both played good this year so let’s see what happens in the final. The most important thing is that we really enjoy playing together.”

Added Alcaide, “When you feel so confident in your partner, you feel so good so you don’t worry if you miss a ball as we’ll have more chances. We’re trying to focus on our games and that’s the most important thing.”

Team Poland

The second semi-final was a different story as Poland pulled away from Germany in the closing stages following a tight encounter. Neither side really got their respective breaks going and that led to plenty of safety play and few run out opportunities.

With fruitless breaks and plenty of safety, the match found itself at 2 racks apiece before Poland then took the next with the break to take the lead for the first time. Two balls went in off the break from Filler in the next but the 2 ball was blocked and Bongers pushed out. A jump shot from Zielinski left the 2-ball on for Bongers and he made it to set up a runout for Germany for 3-3.

Nothing down on the break for Zielinski gave Germany a chance but the unluckiest of scratches on a very tight angle from Filler gave a grateful Poland ball-in-hand. They then restored their one rack lead at 4-3. Germany cleared what was a difficult table, following multiple visits to square it up at 4-4. It was becoming an absorbing match as neither team was getting much from the break and the racks were becoming increasingly tactical.

Poland took the next after some back-and-forth safety and then made it 6-4 following a safety-packed tenth rack. Another fruitless break, this time from Zielinski, got Germany back to the table and with the balls out in the open the score moved to 6-5.

Another unfortunate scratch from Filler pocketing the 1-ball, handed the table back to Poland and from there they restored their two-rack lead at 7-5. That soon became a three-rack lead as the Poles ran out from the break to put themselves within one of victory at 8-5.

Another break left a safety – this time from Filler. The Germans were patient and, in the end, got ball-in-hand as Szewczyk failed toextricate himself from an impossible snooker, and they cleared to get the match to 8-6. Just when he needed it, Zielinski delivered an excellent break, downing 2 balls and leaving an open table. There were a couple of testers along the way but the Polish pair executed them well and they cleared for a 9-6 victory.

“We were struggling with the break, both of us but from the open game we generally played quite well and Germany had two or three unlucky rolls and we took advantage of it. I’m happy that we’re in the final with Wojciech – he’s a great partner,” said Zielinski.

Szewczyk added, “I’d agree with Wiktor. It was pretty interesting – I actually like the strategic part of the game as so many racks were of this kind where we exchanged safeties and had to come up with some creative shots. In the end we managed to make three break-and-runs out of that disastrous break so it’s not really a bad score.”

Szewczyk is no guarantee for a spot in the final. Teams are made up of the two highest ranked players prior to the final and with a Euro Tour to compete in this weekend and a few other Polish players snapping at his heels, anything could happen.

Full results from the evening’s play:

Semi Final 1: SPAIN (Alcaide/Sanchez Ruiz) 9 – 3 BOSNIA HERZOGOVINA (Pehlivanovic/Piknjac)

Semi Final 2: POLAND (Szewczyk/Zielinski) 9 – 6 GERMANY (Filler/Bongers)

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