x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Wembley blues for Higgins

Irishman Mark Allen handed the world champion another first-round defeat in the Masters and set up a quarter-final today against Mark Selby.

LONDON // Irishman Mark Allen handed world champion John Higgins another first-round defeat in the Pokerstars.com Masters at Wembley Arena to set up a quarter-final today against Mark Selby. Higgins had seemed out of sorts throughout, and although he has won the event twice, most recently in 2006, he has now lost in the first round on nine of his 16 visits to Wembley. The Scot took the opening frame before being kept scoreless in the next two. However, in the fourth frame he was called for a foul by referee Jan Verhaas for touching a red with his cue, a decision with which Higgins did not agree.

He did reduce the arrears to 3-2 after the interval but Allen outscored him in three of the next four frames to win 6-3. "It was definitely a good win and will help my confidence," said Allen. "John didn't play well but you need the likes of him or Ronnie O'Sullivan to be off colour when you do play them. "I've won only three games this season, which is terrible really. The only time I played well was in the UK and I got beat.

"John is an absolute gent on and off the table but I think he struggled before the incident in frame four. I don't think that affected him." Higgins was understandably disappointed by his performance. "I never seem to play well here," he said. He was also unamused by the fourth-frame foul awarded against him by referee Verhaas. "It puzzled me a great deal. Every player knows if they touch a ball with the cue and I'm sure I didn't touch a red. I've looked at the television replays and couldn't see the evidence."

Welshman Ryan Day had an emphatic 6-0 victory over Joe Perry to line up a quarter-final against Stephen Maguire. @Email:sports@thenational.ae