Raymond van Barneveld defeated home hero Max Hopp to keep his Premier League survival hopes alive, as Daryl Gurney stunned Michael van Gerwen on a dramatic night of action at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin on Thursday evening.
Hopp became the latest contender to enter the fray in this year’s Premier League as he made his tournament debut on home soil, but Van Barneveld silenced the 12,000 crowd in Berlin, taking out a majestic 170 checkout en eoute to his first victory of the season.
Hopp made a flying start by following up an early maximum with a 104 checkout to draw first blood, but Barney responded by reeling off four consecutive legs in 16, 14, 18 and 16 to lead 4-1.
The Dutchman missed two darts for a 5-1 lead and Hopp sank double two and then converted a clinical 96 kill to reduce the arrears to 4-3. However, Van Barneveld regained his buffer with a mesmerising 170 finish – the first of this year’s tournament, before overcoming some late finishing-line nerves to prevail with a 90 average.
“I didn’t play my ‘A game’ tonight but of course I’m happy to get the win,” said Van Barneveld. “When I saw Michael lost I knew I needed to win to keep my hopes of avoiding elimination alive and thankfully I did.
“I was struggling at points in that match, the 170 came at a good time for me and it felt really good. Next week I’m playing at home, I can’t wait. I love this game and now I’m feeling more energised and hopefully I will bring my ‘A game’ next week.”
The tournament’s return to Germany also featured a vital win for Gurney, as the Northern Irishman recorded his third triumph of the season to move closer to ensuring his survival. Van Gerwen struggled throughout and ‘Super Chin’ capitalised; averaging 98.71 and piling in four maximums to sink ‘The Green Machine’.
Van Gerwen opened up an early 2-0 cushion after a scrappy start from both, but Gurney responded by winning five of the next six legs to seal command at 5-3. MvG produced the odd glimpse of brilliance, firing in a 12-dart hold and taking out a skin-saving 93 finish, but Gurney held his nerve in the decider, sealing the two points with a 13-dart hold on tops.
“I’m delighted with the result, but in all honesty I didn’t play as well as I know I can,” said Gurney. “I was battling with myself to find the treble 20 all the way through, but once I went 2-0 down I hit a few big scores and I know if my first dart is right I can beat anybody.
“Going into the game I knew I needed to get a point to keep myself out of the elimination picture going into next week so to get the win is a great result,” added the world number five, who now boasts back-to-back wins over Van Gerwen.
World number two Rob Cross is two points clear at the top of the table after recording his fourth consecutive victory at the expense of Gerwyn Price. ‘The Iceman’ suffered his first defeat of the campaign in Nottingham but was unable to bounce back, as Cross prevailed with an impressive 104.33 average.
Cross opened up an early 2-0 advantage but Price responded by halving the deficit with a fine 12-darter. However, ‘Voltage’ always kept the Welshman at arm’s length and after Price missed an opportunity to restore parity at five apiece, Cross capitalised to complete his fifth win of the campaign.
“I’m really happy with the result tonight, it felt like a bit of a graft in places but I got the job done,” said the 2018 world champion. “A couple of times I broke throw and gave him a freebie to break straight back so I need to work on keeping my focus in every leg.
“I’m really happy in the Premier League this year, everything is good at home with my family, my sponsors are supporting me and life couldn’t be any better right now.”
Mensur Suljovic continued his fine form to thrash Michael Smith 7-2, leaving ‘Bully Boy’ just one point above the drop zone. Smith won the opening leg but struggled throughout, averaging a miserly 85.34 as Suljovic cruised to his third win in four weeks with a solid 96.44 average.
The St Helen’s star drew first blood but squandered three clear darts for a 2-0 lead and Suljovic pounced; reeling off five straight legs to lead 5-1. Smith then followed up his second maximum with a clinical two-dart 86 kill to stop the rot, but this was only a temporary revival, as Suljovic won the next two legs to move into the top four places.
“It’s a brilliant feeling,” said the Austrian, who took out finishes of 70, 77 and 94. “Michael is such a good player so to win 7-2 is very big for me. I love playing in Berlin, I won here last year too and it was a fantastic night.”
Suljovic has moved into the top four at the expense of Peter Wright, who salvaged a point from his encounter against James Wade, having led 5-2 at one stage. Wade averaged 98.42 to Wright’s 98.93, but the Scot produced a nerveless final leg to extend his unbeaten run to three matches.
The Scotsman started strongly, breaking throw twice and firing six perfect darts on his way to the three leg advantage. However, Wright then missed a total of seven darts across the next four legs as Wade edged 6-5 ahead, only for ‘Snakebite’ to follow up a brace of 140’s with a classy 74 checkout to seal a share of the spoils in the decider.
The Unibet Premier League continues with a double-header at Rotterdam Ahoy on March 27 and 28, with the two nights culminating in Judgement Night which will see the ninth-placed player in the league table eliminated.
Photo Credit: Kelly Deckers/PDC
2019 Unibet Premier League
Night Seven – Thursday March 21
Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin
Gerwyn Price 4-7 Rob Cross
James Wade 6-6 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 5-7 Daryl Gurney
Michael Smith 2-7 Mensur Suljovic
Max Hopp 3-7 Raymond van Barneveld