Published on February 2nd, 2018 | by Ben Jefferies
Work tomorrow? Crowd takes Dutch courage as MVG wins again
“Don’t take me home, I just don’t want to go to work, I want to stay here and drink all the beer, please don’t, please don’t take me home.”
The plaintive chant filled the air at Arena MK on a night of darts, drinking and Dutch success otherwise known as the Masters Championship.
I found myself singing along, pitcher of lager in hand, until it dawned on me that I too had work the following morning, at 7:30am to be precise.
As with most of the crowd, however, this panicked thought soon passed, and the party carried on.
It was the first PDC event of the year, pitting the top 16 in the world against each other, and it was the tournament’s fourth successive year of being hosted in Milton Keynes, with Michael Van Gerwen winning the previous three events on the bounce.
The Dutchman headed into the curtain-raiser off the back of a disappointing defeat to Rob Cross in the PDC World Championship semi-final at Alexandra Palace, while it was Cross’ first tournament since his sensational run to the world title.
Both were expected to come through their opening games in comfortable fashion and the pair didn’t disappoint, Cross defeating Ian White 10-3, with MVG beating Kim Huybrechts 10-6.
However, the Barney Army, who were out in force had a scare, but their man, former world champion and two-time Masters runner-up Raymond Van Barneveld, was able to see off the challenge of Dave Chisnall in a final-leg decider to edge through 10-9.
Ally Pally hangover
It was feared that Cross – who’s meteoric rise last year resulted in him ending the season as world No.3 – might suffer a World Championship hangover, and so it proved in his quarter-final.
Mensur Suljovic, a notoriously awkward opponent due to his slow throwing rhythm, was able to hang onto the coat-tails of Cross in the early exchanges, coming back from a 4-5 deficit to put together a run of four consecutive winning legs.
The pressure asserted by the Austrian proved to be too much, and the world champion’s frustration on the oche became increasingly apparent.
The Englishman was able to reduce the margin to a single-leg deficit at 9-8, but it proved to be damage limitation as the world No.6 took the 18th leg to send the man from Hastings crashing out.
Cross, who turned professional just a year ago, could only achieve a three-dart average of 99.00, which fell some way short of his world championship final victory over Phil Taylor, where he averaged 107.67.
An all-Dutch final between Van Gerwen and Van Barneveld proved to be the spectacle everyone had hoped for.
Bive-time world champion ‘Barney’ raced into a early 4-1 advantage over his compatriot, and then led 5-2.
However Van Gerwen eventually found his best form and put together a string of three successive winning legs to level proceedings at 5-5.
The Barney Army were in full voice as they urged their man to summon up one more big effort and he didn’t disappoint, but MVG went on another winning streak of his own.
The world No.1 took five consecutive legs at 5-8 down to storm into a 10-8 advantage, before doubling out and landing the contest 11-9 in what was an epic seesaw battle full of momentum swings.
His victory meant MVG has still never lost a match on the Milton Keynes stage. The crowd went home elated to set their alarms for the following morning…