Michael van Gerwen cemented his place as favourite for the 2021 Unibet Premier League Play-Offs last night with an 8-4 victory over two-time champion Gary Anderson.
MVG took a step closer to equalling Phil Taylor’s record of six Premier League darts triumphs during Night 14 at the Marshall Arena. It was also revenge for the Dutchman, who was the beaten finalist back in 2015 when Anderson last won the prestigious tournament.
An average of 98 proved enough to progress through to the play-offs, with an impressive 57% checkout ratio not enough to see Anderson upset the odds, even with two ton-plus finishes to boast.
Van Gerwen, who ended Anderson’s hopes of a top four spot with the victory, was clearly delighted with his performance.
"It's been a long wait for me to win in front of fans but it feels good now it is finally here.
"I feel good again, but you have to show it on the stage. After last night's disappointment it was important for me to put it right tonight.
"Now I can start to focus and work towards the semi-finals. I'm going to keep enjoying playing in front of the crowds for the next couple of nights and get myself ready for Friday when I hope to lift this title again."
The disappointment that MVG refers to came in an 8-3 loss to Nathan Aspinall the night prior, who himself passed up on the chance to progress after being held to a 7-7 draw by James Wade.
A losing finalist in last year’s Premier League, Aspinall found himself 7-5 up and on the brink of making the play-offs, only to be pegged back by a resilient Wade to share the points.
A philosophical Aspinall admitted that the draw was probably the correct outcome.
“It wasn’t to be tonight. I'm gutted but I think a draw was probably a fair result.
"It would mean everything for me to get over the line and reach the Play-Offs. After the 12 months I've had it would prove to a lot of people that I'm not a flash in the pan.
"I want to keep proving people wrong, and it's up to me now to go out and finish the job."
In his debut campaign, the impressive Jose de Sousa defeated Jonny Clayton 8-5 and took another huge step towards securing a top four spot. The 47-year-old hasn’t tasted defeat since Night 8 and currently finds himself on the longest unbeaten run in the division.
Despite only managing three 180s throughout the contest, De Sousa’s checkout rate of 57% was enough to see him over the line.
"Two points at this stage of the season is massive for me," said De Sousa.
"My dream is to win the Premier League in my first year playing in this tournament, and I still have a chance to do that so I am very happy right now.
"I know I need to keep playing at this level to have a chance to do that so I have to make sure I stay focussed for the rest of the week."
As for Clayton, the defeat leaves him needing a big win over a confident Peter Wright who has won his last two matches. Beginning the week knowing that he needed to win all of his remaining games, Wright has found form when it matters and is in high spirits.
"I'm still on a high with having the crowds back. I didn't play as well as I wanted to but I did enough to get the win.
"When I know I need to win legs I find a way to do it, even against the best players in the world. I've kept myself alive in the competition for another night at least.
"Every game feels like a knockout game for me now because I know I can't afford anymore slip-ups. I will keep fighting."
Clayton and Wright kick off Wednesday’s action before Dimitri Van den Bergh looks to return to winning ways and gate-crash the top four against Wade.
Aspinall can confirm his spot in the Play-Offs with a win over struggling Anderson, while De Sousa will be hoping MVG, having already qualified, will take his foot off the gas in the final match of the evening.
2021 Unibet Premier League
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Night 14, Tuesday May 25
James Wade 7-7 Nathan Aspinall
Jonny Clayton 5-8 Jose de Sousa
Gary Anderson 4-8 Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright 8-5 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Night 15 - Wednesday May 26
Jonny Clayton v Peter Wright
James Wade v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Gary Anderson v Nathan Aspinall
Jose de Sousa v Michael van Gerwen