Joe Cullen secured his first European Tour title in style at the 2019 European Matchplay in Mannheim with a magnificent 8-5 victory over Michael van Gerwen in the final.
The Bradford ace claimed the third ranking title of his career in dream fashion as he overcame the reigning World Champion with a 101.3 average a 170 checkout to boot.
Having never previously won past the Semi-Final stage on the European Tour, Cullen saw off William O’Connor, Glen Durrant and James Wade on Sunday to book his place in the final at the Maimarkthalle.
Cullen came out of the traps strongly, kicking off the final with a 180 and claiming four of the opening five legs to assume command.
Van Gerwen responded in the sixth, only to see Cullen power home a 170 checkout to bring the German crowd to their feet as he opened up a 5-2 lead.
Van Gerwen showed his class with three legs in a row to level up, but Cullen regained the edge with successive 13-darters to lead 7-5 – punishing misses from the Dutchman to break – before an 88 finish for a 14-darter secured the £25,000 title.
“To beat Michael in the final is amazing,” admitted Cullen. “It’s the biggest moment in my career, it’s great.
“Michael is the consummate professional, he’s so gracious in defeat and victory. Me and Michael are good friends and he congratulated me wholeheartedly.
“It was just one of those weekends. For us mere mortals, we’re not Michael, the stage is where we all play really well or play really bad and Michael has set the standard.
“I’ve been threatening to win a tournament for a while and this weekend I believed I was going to win it. It genuinely believed it. I couldn’t see that anyone could beat me today.”
A four-time European Tour winner in 2019, Van Gerwen saw his bid to add further silverware ended in the final for a second successive week, having lost out to Mensur Suljovic in the Austrian Championship last Sunday.
Van Gerwen had avenged that loss by seeing off Suljovic 6-4 in the third round, before edging out Krzysztof Ratajski in the Quarter-Finals and then storming past Dave Chisnall with a 7-1 in the Semis.
“If you lose any final you can only blame yourself,” said Van Gerwen. “I missed a few chances but Joe played a phenomenal tournament.
“Normally he’s very laconic but today he beat some phenomenal players, also myself in the final, and fair play to him. I have to take this on the chin and move forward.”
Wade survived a match dart against Wayne Jones in the Third Round before seeing off Jonny Clayton 6-4 in the Quarter-Finals, but lost out in his bid for a second European Matchplay title to Cullen.
Chisnall, June’s Danish Open winner, saw his hopes of a second European Tour title of the year ended in crushing style by Van Gerwen in the last four after he had seen off Ricky Evans and Rob Cross on the day.
Durrant averaged 110 in an outstanding 6-3 win over Daryl Gurney earlier on Sunday, while Ratajski survived a missed match dart from Adrian Lewis in their Last 16 tie.
Cullen’s success sees him move back into the world’s top 16 as he jumps three places to 15th following the Mannheim triumph.
Ratajski moves up four places to 27th, while Evans and Durrant continued their progress towards the top 32 with their runs over the weekend.
European Darts Matchplay 2019 Results
Sunday September 8
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Mensur Suljovic
Adrian Lewis 5-6 Krzysztof Ratajski
Daryl Gurney 4-6 Rob Cross
Dave Chisnall 6-1 Ricky Evans
Ian White 5-6 Jonny Clayton
James Wade 6-5 Wayne Jones
William O’Connor 3-6 Joe Cullen
Gerwyn Price 3-6 Glen Durrant
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Krzysztof Ratajski
Rob Cross 5-6 Dave Chisnall
Jonny Clayton 4-6 James Wade
Joe Cullen 6-2 Glen Durrant
Michael van Gerwen 7-1 Dave Chisnall
James Wade 5-7 Joe Cullen
Michael van Gerwen 5-8 Joe Cullen