DUBLIN DELIGHT AS VAN GERWEN OPENS PREMIER LEAGUE ACCOUNT
Michael van Gerwen won his first Cazoo Premier League night of 2023 in Dublin, surviving seven match darts to edge out Gerwyn Price in Thursday's Night Four final at the 3Arena.
Van Gerwen had seen Chris Dobey, Price and Michael Smith triumph in the Premier League's first three weeks, but the Dutchman opened his account on the Emerald Isle to scoop the £10,000 bonus.
The reigning Premier League champion kicked off Thursday's action with a 6-3 success against Dobey, avenging his defeat to the Bedlington thrower in Belfast's Night One decider.
The Dutchman then defied a spirited rally from Jonny Clayton to prevail by the same 6-3 scoreline in the semi-finals, setting up a fascinating showdown against Night Two winner Price in the evening's showpiece.
Van Gerwen seized the early initiative to lead 2-1, only for Price to respond with a 12-dart leveller, courtesy of a brilliant tops-tops 100 finish.
This sparked a four-leg winning run from the Welshman, who capitalised on a series of missed doubles from Van Gerwen to establish a 5-2 cushion and move to the brink of victory.
However, the three-time World Champion hit back to reduce the arrears to 5-4 before firing in a 14-dart hold to force a last-leg shoot-out after Price had missed two darts at double 15 for victory.
Price had the advantage of throw in the decider but was unable to close out the win, squandering a further five match darts in a dramatic finale, as Van Gerwen eventually sank double four to move top of the table.
"Gezzy was phenomenal in the first two matches, and I was struggling all day," conceded Van Gerwen, who has topped the league phase in eight of his previous ten Premier League campaigns.
"I had to keep fighting and the most important thing is I won the night, which gives you confidence.
"You are playing against world-class players every week, but you need to believe in your own ability. I worked hard for this and to win in front of this crowd in Dublin, it feels amazing.
"I am not playing my top game at the moment. I know I can do a lot better, but to win and be top of the table without producing your best performance, that is a good thing.
"There is so much pressure on my shoulders, but I'm happy with the five points. I love what I do, and I just want to keep on winning."
Price was bidding to win his second Cazoo Premier League night of 2023 following his Night Two success in Cardiff, and he continued his strong start to this year's roadshow to claim a valuable three points.
The 2021 World Champion produced a magnificent display to defeat Night Three runner-up Dimitri Van den Bergh in his quarter-final tie, averaging 104 and landing five 180s to wrap up a 6-4 win.
Price then recorded another ton-topping average in his semi-final demolition of Night Three winner Smith, averaging 102 to dispatch the World Champion 6-1.
Earlier in the night, Smith had fought back from 4-2 down to prolong Peter Wright’s winless run in this year’s competition, closing out victory in a dramatic last-leg shoot-out.
Nathan Aspinall was the night's other quarter-final loser, succumbing 6-4 to Clayton in a topsy-turvy tussle, which saw the Stockport star miss 23 darts at a double.
The Cazoo Premier League continues on Thursday March 2 with Night Five at Westpoint Exeter, where Van Gerwen and Price collide in a repeat of the Night Four final in their opening tie.
Smith takes on Aspinall, Van den Bergh and Dobey collide, while Clayton plays Wright in front of a sell-out crowd in the South West.
The 2023 Cazoo Premier League will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK & Ireland, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN, Viaplay and VTM, and on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers.
2023 Cazoo Premier League
Night Four - Thursday February 23
Michael Smith 6-5 Peter Wright
Gerwyn Price 6-4 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Jonny Clayton 6-4 Nathan Aspinall
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Chris Dobey
Gerwyn Price 6-1 Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Jonny Clayton
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Gerwyn Price
Night Five - Thursday March 2
Michael van Gerwen v Gerwyn Price
Nathan Aspinall v Michael Smith
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Chris Dobey
Jonny Clayton v Peter Wright
Text: Josh Gorton/ PDC
Image: Michael Cooper/PDC