Snooker

Belgian Bullet Brecel claims Championship League glory after thrilling finale

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Luca Brecel wins the Championship League.

Image credit: Eurosport

ByDesmond Kane
11/06/2020 at 22:20 | Updated 12/06/2020 at 08:24

Luca Brecel clinched his second major professional title with a dramatic triumph in the Championship League final group stage in Milton Keynes.

2020 Championship League snooker: Latest results and updated draw

The 'Belgian Bullet' – winner of the 2017 China Championship with a 10-5 final win over Shaun Murphy – secured victory at the Marshall Arena with a 3-0 win over Stuart Bingham, a 2-2 draw with Ryan Day and a nail-biting 2-2 draw with Ben Woollaston, who agonisingly fell one frame short of the title.

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Englishman Woollaston watched Brecel make 67 in the opening frame of the final match knowing he needed a victory, but responded superbly as runs of 141, helped by an astonishing fluke on a pink, and 126 left him on the cusp of victory.

The composed Leicester potter saw a mid-range red somehow fall to drop in the final frame of the 64-man event, enabling Brecel to sweep home a glorious 111 to take the trophy back to Belgium by topping the table on five points.

For a match between the world number 37 Brecel and world number 38 Woollaston, it was a demonstration in how strong snooker is at the elite level.

Played behind closed doors and staged under strict UK government health guidelines with players and officials tested for COVID-19 in the Marshall Arena bubble, Brecel cut a calm, cool and collected figure.

He secured the £30,000 first prize from snooker's first tournament since March and also qualifies for the Champion of Champions tournament in November.

The event was a huge success story and Brecel certainly a worthy winner.

"It was the biggest test of my career that final frame because Ben was playing so well. It is just amazing," said Brecel, who did not lose a match over nine contests at the 11-day event.

"Most of the time I'm pretty cool under pressure, but this time I was very nervous, pretty shaky. I had to stay in quarantine for three days since Sunday, but if you win the tournament it doesn't matter. I'm over the moon, I don't know what to say.

"That's what made this final more special - knowing the winner would get to the Champions of Champions. It's a massive bonus for me and I'm really looking forward to that already."

Brecel made a flying start to the day as 2015 world champion Bingham was restricted to only 12 points in three frames as the 25-year-old from Dilsen-Stokkem powered home breaks off 105 and 106 in a resounding victory.

He continued his heavy scoring streak with further runs of 85 and 57 against Day before the Welshman rescued a 2-2 draw with a fine break of 105.

Woollaston had enjoyed a 3-1 win over Day aided by a 66 knock in the third frame, but lost to Bingham by the same scoreline as the 'Ball-run' kept alive his hopes running in 74 and 71.

With Day unable to win the group, Bingham knew he had to record a victory to stay alive, but was forced to settle for a 2-2 draw in a match that was blighted by some odd errors from both men.

Day moved 2-1 clear courtesy of a 71, but Bingham nicked a point with a closing 55 knowing that his chances of the title were over.

There is a small pause before the eight-man Tour Championship begins at the same venue in Milton Keynes on 20 June behind closed doors with Stephen Maguire replacing UK champion Ding Junhui, who remains in his home in China and is keen to avoid "extensive travel".

It is the penultimate event before the delayed 44th staging of the World Championship is due to begin at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on 31 July.

On this display, there is nothing to stop Brecel or Woollaston from performing strongly on the game's most demanding stage.

Tournament final group

(3pm BST start)

Thursday June 11

  • Winner of Group C – Stuart Bingham (Eng)
  • Winner of Group D – Ben Woollaston (Eng)
  • Winner of Group B – Ryan Day (Wal)
  • Winner of Group A – Luca Brecel (Bel)
  • Stuart Bingham 0-3 Luca Brecel
  • Ryan Day 1-3 Ben Woollaston
  • Ryan Day 2-2 Luca Brecel
  • Stuart Bingham 3-1 Ben Woollaston
  • Stuart Bingham 2-2 Ryan Day
  • Luca Brecel 2-2 Ben Woollaston

Championship League winner: Luca Brecel (Bel)

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