USA takes early Mosconi Cup lead

Team USA

Defending champions Team USA finished the opening session of the Mosconi Cup with a 2-1 lead after an entertaining evening at the Cruise Terminal, Rotterdam

The opening match of the tournament was a first for the event as all twelve players took part, playing in sequence throughout.

It looked like being Europe's point as they reached the hill first but a Ralf Souquet miss, trying to force position on the 2 ball, allowed the Americans to square it before they ran the last rack for the victory.

Europe though, fought back in the second as the trio of Mika Immonen, Ralf Souquet and newcomer David Alcaide looked confident disposing of American captain Johnny Archer plus rookies John Schmidt and Michael Davis.

In the final match up of the evening the American powerhouse trio of Earl Strickland, Rodney Morris and Corey Deuel steamrollered the European team of Imran Majid, Thomas Engert and Nick van den Berg 6-2 after being 2-0 down in the early stages.

Play continues tomorrow afternoon with three pairs matches.

Team Match – Europe 5 – 6 USA

In the opening game of the 2006 Mosconi Cup, Team USA made the perfect start as they fought back from 5-4 down to win the opening team match.

They had led 4-2 but Europe won three racks in a row and looked to have been in pole position to claim a point. But a critical miss in the next from Ralf Souquet saw it become a hill-hill affair and USA ran throught the final rack as Earl Strickland clinched the victory.

The Americans took an early lead as John Schmidt sunk the first 9-ball of the tournament but an error from the USA side in the second rack presented Ralf Souquet the opportunity to level the match, which he took.

A 4-9 combination restored America's advantage and it soon became 3-1 when debutant Mike Davis held his nerve with a straightforward shot to pocket the 9-ball.

As expected, there was a partisan and colourful crowd in Rotterdam and they soon had something to cheer about as Thomas Engert narrowed the deficit to 3-2.

Most early racks had seen few mistakes but that changed in the sixth when Engert, Johnny Archer and David Alcaide each missed attempts at the green six before a fortunate table-length bank shot on the 8-ball from Morris helped it become 4-2.

The crowd were cheering every successful shot from the Europeans and Souquet made it 4-3 when he cut the 9-ball into the top corner pocket, despite being left a tough chance by Alcaide.

In the eighth, Davis missed his shot at the 1-ball and eventually Alcaide clinched the rack with a confidence-building pot.

It was proving to be a nervous start for Davis as he then failed to convert the 5-ball and Dutchman Nick van den Berg delighted the supporters by winning the third rack in a row for Europe to take them to the hill at 5-4.

But Morris made it a hill-hill match as USA benefited when a rare Souquet error saw he miss the 2-ball for 5-5 with America breaking in the last rack, a benefit of claiming the earlier lag. Strickland pocketed the last ball of the match to put the reigning champions 1-0 in front.

Immonen/Alcaide/Souquet 6 – 3 Archer/Schmidt/Davis

That lead though lasted for just one game as the Europeans won the second as the trio of Alcaide, Immonen and Souquet looked in top form against Americans Archer, Schmidt and Davis.

The scoreline was an impressive 6-3 and it would have certainly settled the collective European nerves.

This was the first ever contest of this type in the competition's history and both sides shared the opening two racks. It looked like becoming 2-1 to Europe when USA captain Johnny Archer missed the 3-ball but that mistake was not punished as Immonen scratched to gift America the 2-1 lead.

But Immonen soon redeemed himself when he made a 4-9 combination to bring it back to 2-2 before USA again moved into the lead at 2-3.

An underhit shot from Alcaide forced Souquet to play safe but left Davis with a great deal to do. The American was hooked but an attempted bank shot did not come off as the 7-ball was left hanging over the corner pocket and Souquet later sunk the 9-ball for 3-3.

Immonen missed an attempt at the blue 2 in the seventh rack but left a tricky, short-range shot into the left centre pocket, which Davis failed to convert. Europe ran through the rest of the balls before Immonen, who was having a mixed match, converted another rack.

For the second successive match, Europe became the first side to reach the hill as Alcaide downed the 9-ball in the eighth rack to give his team a 5-3 advantage and had a chance to seal the win when Davis scratched off the break in the next.

There was drama for the packed-out crowd at the Cruise Terminal in the ninth rack. Souquet left Immonen a tough shot on the 9-ball to win the match but the Finnish player rattled the ball into the jaws of the pocket, but fortunately left it safe.

Archer stepped up the table and tried an optimistic table-length bank shot but it did not work out and he was not as fortunate as Immonen as the ball stopped close to the right middle pocket and a delighted Alcaide sealed the 6-3 victory.

Majid/Engert/Van den Berg 2-6 Strickland/Morris/Deuel

Team USA secured an overnight lead after fighting back from 2-0 down to win 6-2 in the third match of the evening.

The American trio of Rodney Morris, Earl Strickland and Corey Deuel defeated Europe's Nick van den Berg, Thomas Engert and Imran Majid in a triples encounter to lead 2-1 overall.

Europe, who had just won their first point of the 2006 Mosconi Cup, made a bright start to the second triples match of the evening.

Van den Berg sunk the 9-ball in the first rack before Engert did likewise in the second to give the hosts an early 2-0 lead.

In yesterday's press conference, Strickland admitted that he would be targeted by the Dutch crowd in the hope they would get a reaction from him.

Well, after only two racks The Pearl was arguing with different supporters and it became clear he would have to stay focused if his team were to force their way back into this match.

America received a helping hand in the third as a van den Berg foul gave the USA trio ball in hand and they capiltalised fully as Deuel pulled it back to 2-1, in this race to six.

It quickly became 2-2 as USA ran through the fourth rack with Strickland potting the decisive ball.

In the fifth, van den Berg scratched when knocking the 2-ball in and trying to draw back for position for the 3-ball. That error was punished and USA ran through the next to secure their fourth rack in a row and a 4-2 lead.

Van den Berg fouled again to give the American's ball in hand, although the Dutchman was left in an impossible position as the cue ball was left inches away from the pocket and behind the five-ball as he strived to hit the two, which was at the other end of the table.

Deuel sealed the rack and the Americans also clinched the next to win 6-2 in a match Europe will be keen to forget.