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Allen Ends Murphy Reign

DB6D0257Shaun Murphy’s defence of the Dafabet Masters title was short lived as he lost 6-4 in the first round against Mark Allen as the tournament got underway at Alexandra Palace.

Murphy beat Allen in the semi-finals en route to winning the title for the first time a year ago, but this time it was the Pistol who came out on top after a high quality clash which featured three century breaks and five more over 50. Murphy made a crucial error at 3-2 down, missing a red three times when he was not snookered and thus losing the frame, and later passed up chances to make it 5-5.

Northern Ireland’s Allen goes through to the quarter-finals to face Barry Hawkins or Joe Perry on Thursday night. He had been in fine form before Christmas, winning the Bulgarian Open and reaching the final of the Champion of Champions, and looks to have kept that momentum going. He needs two more wins to reach the final of a BBC-televised tournament for only the second time in his career.

World number 11 Allen won the opening frame with a top run of 50, then Murphy levelled with a 68. A superb 137 from Allen saw him regain the lead. World number four Murphy hit back with a 65 to make it 2-2 at the interval. Frame five went Allen’s way thanks to a break of 91.

Murphy led 17-1 in frame six when he came to the table facing a tough safety, clipping thin off a red near the top cushion. After missing it twice, he tried to play the same shot at the third attempt and failed to make contact again, losing the frame under the foul and a miss rule. Gratefully receiving that gift, Allen stamped his authority on the match with a break of 104 to go 5-2 ahead.

Murphy fought back with runs of 67 and 100 to close to 5-4. Both players had several chances in frame ten and it came down to the colours. Murphy, down by 10 points, missed a tough green to a baulk corner, and his opponent potted green and brown before converting an excellent long blue to a top corner to seal victory.

Shaun MurphyAllen said: “Shaun is the defending champion here under a lot of pressure and it was a big match for me playing him on the big stage. I’m very happy with the way I played, I scored heavily, took my chances well and got over the line in the end.

“I try my best in every match I play and every tournament I play. I’ll look back at the end of my career knowing that I gave everything out there. It’s very nice to still be in the tournament and with a chance to win the trophy.”

On the incident in the sixth frame, Allen added: “It happened to me in China when Mark Williams did the same thing. It’s a very unusual situation for any top player to do that because I’m in the mode where if I miss it twice I make sure I hit it the third time, even if I leave something on. I’d always rather make my opponent work. I’d rather have given them a whack, hoped for the best and maybe fluked one. These things happen. Shaun will probably be kicking himself for it – but I’ll take it because you don’t get many easy frames on tour.”

Murphy said: “It’s the rule. You don’t see it very often. Normally you would look for an alternative on the third go. I couldn’t see a Plan B. All other options left him a guaranteed chance so I had to man up, take a deep breath and play the right shot. Unfortunately I got it completely wrong. Did I lose the match because of it? No, I don’t think so, there were plenty of other frames.

“I thought it was a really good match played in very good spirit. It was a cracking game, I thought he scored really well. I played well in parts when I got my chances and that’s what makes the Masters so special. That match could have been the final of any tournament. Unfortunately for me it was the first round and I’m on my way home.”