The Knock Out phase of the European Championship got underway on Thursday and from the six Maltese players who had qualified to this stage only Alex Borg advanced to the last sixteen after beating two other Maltese players, Arthur Cachia and Brian Cini.
The 53-year-old veteran, Borg on Thursday proved that experience in this type of competition can be an important factor to get closer even if the opposing players have talent.
Borg was a professional player for several years and during 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons he even took part in the World Snooker World Tour.
In addition, he had won this European Championship for two consecutive years, in 2005 in Poland and 2006 in Romania while in 2004 in Austria had finished as a runner-up.
In the first game today from the last 64 stage against Arthur Cachia, Borg gave a few chances to his opponent and in each frame started to build an advantage that immediately showed that he would end with a comfortable victory. Infact he finished with a 4-0 win.
A little over an hour later he had to play the game from the last 32 and met Brian Cini who earlier had beaten Frenchman Nicolas Mortreux 4-3 with some difficulty.
Perhaps it was a pity to see the two Maltese struggling for qualification in this phase and not in a more advanced stage of the competition.
Borg calmly built a good lead and won the first three frames 75-23, 72-30 and 71-46.
During this championship it was the first time that Cini was three frames down but managed to reduce the gap by responding with a break of 50 points to win the fourth frame 83-13 and the subsequent frame 58-39 to move 3-2 behind.
In the sixth frame Borg made a break of 54 points and even though Cini tried several attempts to snooker when there were only the pink and black balls left, Borg closed the match by potting the pink ball to win the frame 66-41, and the match 4-2.
On Friday Alex Borg plays in one of the eight games of the last 16 at 10 am and meets Rodion Judin of Latvia.
From the other four games that the Maltese played on Thursday, Philip Ciantar had to play in a preliminary game to find a place with the last 64 players in the competition. He had a convincing victory of 4-0 against the Dutch Mario Wehrmann.
In the last 32, shortly after, he played against David Vaitzman of Israel who was one of three players that during the group phase did not lose a frame.
It was a balanced match even though Vaitzman was 3-1 up after the fourth frame. Ciantar responded well and the game had to be decided with the seventh frame.
Here it was Ciantar who failed to take advantage until Vaitzman came back into the frame and managed to close the game and qualify.
In the other last 64 matches Frans Mintoff offered little opposition to Eden Sharav of Israel and the latter had an easy 4-0 victory. One has to note that Mintoff’s opponent is a former professional snooker player who won a card for the World Snooker Tour for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons.
Even Aaron Busuttil in this stage was drawn against the Finn Robin Hull who for many years was a professional in this sport and is considered as one of the best snooker players in the Nordic countries of all times.
Hull won this European Championship in 1997 and 2013 and was runner up in the 1993 edition.
Despite this, Busuttil kept pace with the Finn remarkably and the game was decided in the decisive frame. With some attention and concentration Busuttil could have ended up in the last 32.
Among the last sixteen are the two players who last week won the Under-18 Championship, Bulcsú Révész and Under-21, Liam Graham.
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