Raymond van Barneveld enjoyed a dream Champions League debut as he stunned world number one Michael van Gerwen, whilst Phil Taylor began his title defence with victory over Adrian Lewis on an eventful opening session at the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Van Barneveld, appearing in his first BBC-televised match for over a decade, rolled back the years to record a 10-5 triumph over a shell-shocked Van Gerwen in Cardiff. Barney averaged 97.19, fired in eight maximums and took out three magnificent ton-plus finishes to enjoy the perfect start to Group A.
The opening three legs all went against throw, before Van Barneveld conjured up a classy 120 checkout to establish some daylight. The next two legs both went with throw, before the five-time world champion fired in some timely maximums and converted classy 136 and 92 finishes to secure a commanding 6-2 cushion.
Van Gerwen reduced the deficit with a regulation 65 finish, but he was left to rue three missed darts at tops in a crucial tenth leg, as Van Barneveld capitalised by pinning D16 to head into the interval with a 7-3 advantage.
‘The Green Machine’ enjoyed a strong hold of throw after the break, but Barney continued his brilliance and piled in a sublime 130 finish on the bullseye to move to within two legs of victory.
Van Barneveld missed two darts at D16 to break in the thirteenth leg, but he bounced back imperiously. The 50-year-old pegged tops to storm 9-5 ahead, before effortlessly dispatching a two-dart 81 combination to round-off a comprehensive victory over the world number one.
Barney will now face his old adversary Phil Taylor on Saturday evening, after ‘The Power’ began the defence of his Champions League title with a thrilling 10-7 victory over his fellow Stoke star Adrian Lewis.
Lewis finished superbly throughout the contest and looked in command at 7-5 up, but Taylor reeled off five successive legs to triumph with a 101.58 average, three maximums and a 50% checkout success rate. ‘Jackpot’ converted 70% of his attempts at double, but Taylor’s scoring power was ultimately the deciding factor.
Lewis kicked off proceedings with a magnificent 140 checkout, but Taylor hit back instantly, and took out a 103 finish of his own to move 3-2 ahead. Nevertheless, the two-time world champion was finishing flawlessly and dispatched a critical 76 finish to restore parity at three apiece.
‘Jackpot’ then registered D16 and D18 respectively to move 5-3 ahead, and although Taylor stopped the rot via D8, Lewis regained his two-leg lead with a fine 104 finish; having kicked off the leg with six perfect darts.
The next two legs were shared with Lewis still leading 7-5, but with his back against the wall, the 16-time world champion produced a sequence of sublime darts to produce a brilliant comeback and kick off his title defence in style.
He registered a 14-dart hold on D16 to reduce the arrears to the solitary leg, before kicking off the next leg with successive maximums and completing a clinical 117 checkout to level up proceedings with a 12-darter.
Lewis continued to battle but he was unable to prevent the typical Taylor surge, as the 57-year-old recorded consecutive finishes of 64, 129 and 71 to complete the comeback and put himself in a strong position in Group A.
In Group B, world number two Gary Anderson was humbled by Champions League debutant Mensur Suljovic. ‘The Gentle’ was anything but as he punished every error from ‘The Flying Scotsman’ to record an emphatic 10-3 win. Anderson had trailed 6-0 at one stage, but he was able to avoid the indignity of a whitewash.
Suljovic averaged 97.73, landed three maximums and converted 38% of his attempts at double, punishing Anderson’s miserly 25% checkout success rate. The two-time world champion also failed to produce his notorious power scoring; averaging 95.84 and firing in just two 180’s.
The Austrian posted maximums in each of the opening two legs as he eased into a 2-0 lead, before pouncing on missed opportunities from Anderson to storm 4-0 ahead. The Scot was growing increasingly frustrated and Suljovic compounded his misery by completing clinical 88 and 81 finishes to extend his advantage to 6-0.
The world number two was reeling but managed to win three of the next four legs to reduce the deficit to 7-3 at the interval. However, Suljovic regained his ruthless edge after the break to round-off a mightily impressive Champions League debut.
He overcame some double-trouble to sink D5 and lead 8-3, before producing a masterful 157 finish to move to the brink of victory at 9-3 ahead. There were no finishing line nerves for the world number seven, and he completed the win with a confident 14-dart leg culminating on tops.
Suljovic will take on another Scot on Saturday evening, after Peter Wright kicked off the tournament with an impressive 10-5 win over Dave Chisnall, who was also making his Champions League of Darts debut.
Wright failed to qualify from the group-stages in last year’s competition, but he issued a strong statement of intent against the St Helen’s star; averaging 101.28, piling in six maximums and boasting a checkout success rate of 45%.
The contest began in explosive fashion, as the pair both posted early maximums and exchanged 11-darters in the opening two legs. Wright then reeled off three legs on the spin to establish control at 4-1, but Chisnall stopped the rot by virtue of his second maximum and a 12-darter.
The next two legs both went against throw, before Wright landed a classy 110 checkout for a 6-3 advantage. The St Helen’s star overcame double-trouble to register D2 and reduce the deficit to 6-4 at the interval, but he was unable to make further inroads in the latter stages of the contest.
Both players secured commanding holds after the break, before ‘Snakebite’ followed up his fourth maximum with a 13-darter via D16. Wright then took out a vital 89 checkout to seal total control of the contest, and Chisnall’s hopes were extinguished moments later, as the UK Open champion completed an effortless 80 kill to seal the two points.
Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld will collide in their 83rd competitive meeting this evening, whilst Michael van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis clash in the other Group A contest.
In Group B, this afternoon’s winners Mensur Suljovic and Peter Wright will lock horns, whilst Gary Anderson and Dave Chisnall will contest the basement battle, with defeat potentially ending their hopes of qualifying for Sunday evening’s semi-finals.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Unibet Champions League of Darts
Saturday September 16
Afternoon Session (1.15pm) – live on BBC One
First Group Matches
Peter Wright 10-5 Dave Chisnall (B)
Mensur Suljovic 10-3 Gary Anderson (B)
Phil Taylor 10-7 Adrian Lewis (A)
Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld (A)
Evening Session (6.45pm) – live on BBC Two
Second Group Matches
Gary Anderson v Dave Chisnall
Peter Wright v Mensur Suljovic
Phil Taylor v Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen v Adrian Lewis
The afternoon session’s winners face each other, and the losing players face each other.
Sunday September 17
Afternoon Session (1pm)
Final Group Matches
Order to be confirmed
Gary Anderson v Peter Wright
Dave Chisnall v Mensur Suljovic
Michael van Gerwen v Phil Taylor
Adrian Lewis v Raymond van Barneveld
Evening Session (6.30pm)
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