Team Europe takes early Mosconi Cup lead

Tony Drago

Team Europe, captained by Dutchman Alex Lely, enjoyed a runaway start to the Mosconi Cup as they sped into a 3-0 lead before being pegged back in the final match.

Wins for the whole team in the first match of the competition followed by a doubles win for the Feijen/Souquet axis and then a great singles win for US Open champ Mika Immonen set them up nicely for the final three days of competition.

Only a 5-3 win for Strickland and Archer in the final game of the session saved a whitewash and it will give the Americans some hope when play resumes at 8.00pm tomorrow with two doubles and two singles matches.

Europe went into an early 2-0 lead in the opening match, the one and only game where all ten players compete.

Egged on by an enthusiastic crowd, they maintained a lead throughout and ran out 5-3 winners to take opening honours in the 2008 Mosconi Cup.

The second match of the evening saw American captain Nick Varner lead with his 2008 World Cup of Pool champions Shane Van Boening and Rodney Morris.

His opposite number Alex Lely, though trumped him as his pairing of World 8 Ball and Straight Pool Champions Ralf Souquet and Niels Feijen battled back from 1-3 down to win four racks on the spin to take the match by 5-3.

A failed safety escape from Morris and a scratch from his team mate were both contributing factors in the European comeback.

 ‘It definitely wasn't an easy one as we were 3-1 down and had to come back. We made a couple of mistakes at the start but when it counted we came back,' said Souquet.

‘You enjoy playing doubles with a great player like Ralf and if you are both playing well then it releases the pressure. He puts you in the perfect spot and we had a comfort zone in the second part of the match. We're pumped up and going all the way,' added Feijen.

In the opening singles match of the tournament, America's Jeremy Jones had a torrid time of it as he was well beaten by a focused Mika Immonen who continued Europe's dream start as they moved into a 3-0 lead.

Things started badly for Jones as he dogged a straight 5 ball in the opener en route to a run out and that gifted the rack to the Finn.

Immonen raced through the next and increased his lead to an ominous 3-0 in the third. He then played the tightest of snookers and Jones' attempt to swerve out gave him ball in hand and he ran out to reach the hill.

Jones broke and ran the fifth to hang in there but a fired up Immonen got to the table in what was the final rack after the American ran out of position, and he cleared to take a superb point for the Europeans.

‘I'm really delighted especially as my last personal memory of the Mosconi Cup was in 2006 when I screwed up an easy chance to win the Cup. It's about trying to redeem myself.

‘When I came back it was a bit of history for me. Now seeing the other lads win it last year I was overjoyed about that and I really had to fight back to get on the team and I'm delighted to be back.

‘The other guys made it easy for me as Niels and Ralf made a terrific comeback in the last match so that took a bit of pressure off.

‘We can't be too happy yet as America are great fighters so we have to keep cool and do what we've been doing all year - winning matches.

‘We've got a good crowd and they really help to boost your confidence so I'm looking forward to the next match. The crowd make a lot of noise and it feels good playing in front of your home crowd.'

In the final match of the session Johnny Archer and Earl Strickland took the first point for Team USA as some solid play from them, followed by some careless mistakes from Mark Gray and Tony Drago, allowed them to complete a decent 5-3 win.

‘We needed it or we would've been 4-0 down and that wouldn't have sat well with us,' said Strickland afterwards.

Photo courtesy: Lawrence Lustig / Matchroom Sport