Van Gerwen shines in Unibet European Championships

Credit: Lawrence Lustig
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MAGNIFICENT Michael van Gerwen fought back from 10-7 down to claim an incredible 11-10 victory as he retained the Unibet European Championship title in a superb final at the Ethias Arena in Belgium on Sunday night.

World Champion Anderson had looked set to add the European Championship title to the Premier League and Players Championship Finals triumphs he has also claimed during the past year when he took a 10-7 lead over van Gerwen.

However, the Dutchman - who had earlier missed double 12 for a nine-dart finish in the final's fourth leg - took the last four legs in incredible fashion as he edged out the Scot to claim glory.

Reigning champion van Gerwen had produced some of his best darts on the way to the final and missed double 12 to complete a nine-dart leg during the early stages of the decider.

Van Gerwen did hold a 4-3 advantage after breaking throw in leg seven with a 91 checkout, but Anderson found top gear with four 180s in as many legs as he turned the game around and took a 7-4 cushion.

The world number one hit a 107 finish as he fought back but Anderson edged towards victory as a 101 checkout moved him 10-7 up.

Van Gerwen, though, hit a 14-dart leg to keep his hopes alive and then repeated the feat, with the aid of a 180, to break throw and pull back to 10-9.

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He then hit a ninth maximum of the final as a 13-dart finish forced a deciding leg, and when Anderson was unable to take out 134 the world number one pounced as a 75 checkout for another 14-darter gave him the title.

"It's very special, especially the way that I won," said van Gerwen, who averaged 107.28 in the final and 105.58 for the tournament.

"Gary was playing fantastic darts and I couldn't find a way to put him under pressure because his scoring power at the right moments was fantastic.

"I was waiting for a mistake and when you get a chance you need to take it with both hands, and that's exactly what I did. I fought for everything but I still don't know where that finish came from.

"At 10-7 I won a leg on my own throw to make it 10-8, and then I knew it was now or never and I broke his throw, and I had a little feeling then that I was going to win.

"Maybe I played the four best legs of my career under this pressure and I'm really happy with that. It's fantastic to win a tournament like this in that way."

The £300,000 is the first major title which van Gerwen has successfully defended throughout his career, and extends his lead at the head of the world rankings with the £65,000 first prize.

"I'd not retained a title before and I'm really pleased," he added. "To retain the title in front of a crowd which includes so many Dutchmen is great.

"I'm so happy with how everything is going at the moment and this was a fantastic win."

Anderson had produced some sublime darts himself throughout the weekend, notably as he followed up a quarter-final defeat of Jelle Klaasen with an 11-5 win over Adrian Lewis in the semi-finals which included a ten-dart finish.

However, the world number two was left to rue a defeat to van Gerwen - and though he averaged over 102 and hit eight 180s in the decider he never had a dart for the title.

"It was there for the taking," he conceded. "I threw that away but Michael came back well.

"I'll forget about this by tomorrow and prepare for the Grand Slam in Wolverhampton next week and I'm looking forward to playing back in Glasgow too later in November."

The night proved agonising for world number four Peter Wright, who came back from 5-0 down in his semi-final against van Gerwen to trail just 8-7 only to waste his chance to level when he twice missed a single number, denying himself a dart at a double.

Van Gerwen stepped in to move 9-7 up and sealed victory with a run of 11, 11 and 13 darts as he moved into the final.

"I mentor young Nathan Derry on the circuit and tell him all the time that the big single number is the most important number and the one you concentrate on, and I didn't there tonight," conceded Wright.

"It should have been eight-all and it might have been a different story, but I'm happy with reaching the semi-finals. The darts are starting to work for me now and with a bit more work I'll be ready for the next tournament.

"Michael played well there and I enjoyed the game. You've got to play well against the number one player in the world and in those first five legs I should have won them and didn't and I was chasing the game after that."

The Unibet European Championship was the PDC's first major televised event to be held in Belgium and attracted over 10,000 fans to the Ethias Arena in Hasselt throughout the three days.

The next major PDC event is the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts, which will be held from November 7-15 at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall.