Ranking, Snooker Headlines

Mark Allen battles to prolong title defence

Mark Allen continued his reign of the Northern Ireland Open after narrowly winning his round of 32 match on Wednesday in Belfast.

The Antrim man was far from his best but dug deep in front of his home fans to outlast Hong Kong’s Andy Lee in a deciding frame.

Allen, who captured glory in this event last year by beating John Higgins in a thrilling final, will take on Xiao Guodong for a berth in the last eight.

Xiao was another 4-3 winner on day four of the competition at the Waterfront Hall, the Chinese cueist edging out Hossein Vafaei.

The top quarter of the draw also features 2017 champion Mark Williams and former world number two Stephen Maguire.

The latter lost the opening frame of his match with Kyren Wilson but then reeled off the following four to oust this season’s European Masters champion.

Williams, meanwhile, could only muster a high break of 56 but still had enough in his reserves to see off the challenge of Jimmy Robertson.

Meanwhile, Neil Robertson maintained his aspirations of becoming the first person to complete the Home Nations slam.

The Australian already has triumphs in the English, Scottish, and Welsh Opens during his career and is looking to add the final leg of the set in Northern Ireland this week.

Robertson compiled a hat-trick of century breaks in a dazzling 4-1 victory over John Astley, and the 40 year-old will next face Li Hang after the Chinese competitor whitewashed Jordan Brown.

At about 5/2, Robertson is the favourite to land what would be a 24th career ranking crown, and these top betting sites have plenty of free bets and welcome bonuses if you want to back him to go all the way.

In the same section of the draw are Mark Selby and Michael White, the latter backing up his standout success over Ding Junhui with another eye-catching positive result against Barry Hawkins.

Selby was struggling to find his top form, as he has been all week, but used his experience to come through against lowly ranked Hammad Miah.

Elsewhere, Ireland’s Aaron Hill couldn’t build on his headline-grabbing triumph against Judd Trump, instead suffering a disappointing 4-1 loss to Tom Ford.

Ford will face fellow Englishman David Gilbert in the next round after beating David Lilley with another 4-1 scoreline.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ronnie O’Sullivan crashed out of the 2022 Northern Ireland with a 4-3 reverse to David Grace in the last 64.

The Rocket looked disinterested and Grace, albeit beset with clincher’s disease towards the end, finally took advantage.

On Thursday, the last 32 will conclude with the likes of Higgins and Shaun Murphy still to contest their clashes at that stage, before the last 16 takes place later in the day.

Last 16 Draw

Mark Allen vs Xiao Guodong
Stephen Maguire vs Mark Williams

Neil Robertson vs Li Hang
Michael White vs Mark Selby

Tom Ford vs David Gilbert
Zhou Yuelong/Shaun Murphy vs Robert Milkins/John Higgins

Lyu Haotian/Daniel Wells vs Luca Brecel/Pang Junxu
Anthony McGill/Yan Bingtao vs Tian Pengfei/David Grace

Click here to view the full draw

Live coverage is available via Eurosport and Quest in the UK and Ireland, with other options around the world also available.

Featured photo credit: WST

One Comment

  1. Jay Brannon

    The Allen match finished at 1.23am at local time.

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