NOVEMBER 6, 2006
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan was in his elements, Francisco "Django" Bustamante a little shaky and Efren "Bata" Reyes terrible.

Contrasting conditions of the three ace Filipino pool sharks produced contrasting results on the opening day of the 2006 World Pool Championship at the Philippine International Convention Center yesterday.

The fourth seeded Pagulayan crushed Argentine Gustavo Espinosa, 8-2, the 10th ranked Bustamante escaped with an 8-7 win over young countryman Jherome Peńa while No. 2 Reyes was stunned by American snooker specialist Tony Crosby, 7-8.

Reyes, the 1999 champion on a roll going into the tourney, blamed recklessness on his sorry defeat, which disappointed a good weekend crowd in the venue.

Defeats by other Filipino bets on the other tables made the day worse for the local contingent in the prestigious nine-day event featuring the cream of the billiards world clashing for the $400,000 total cash pot.

Leonardo Andam bowed to German Ralf Souquet, 4-8, Antonio Lining lost to Spanish David Alcaide, 4-8, Ronato Alcano dropped a 7-8 loss to Vietnamese Luong Chi Dung and Eduardo Villanueva suffered a 3-8 beating at the hands of Italian Fabio Petroni.

Fifth seed Marlon Manalo stopped the bleeding by the Filipinos when he ripped Canadian Nicolas Guimond, 8-5, on table 3.

"Nangyari na ang kinatatakutan namin, matalo sa harap ng mga kababayan natin," said Reyes.

Despite poor pocketing, Reyes had the match on his hand but let it slip away by missing the money ball on what appeared to be an easy, almost-straight corner-pocket shot.

Crosby, with a towel covering his face, himself couldn’t believe Reyes muffed it. He coolly knocked in the stripe-9 on the other corner pocket then raised his cue stick while letting out a big yell in celebration of his thriller of a victory.

"It’s just amazing. I played well and got a little lucky. Every shot for me was not easy because I could feel everyone wanted him (Reyes) to win," said Crosby, originally from Manchester, England who moved over to the United States where he’s got hooked on the sport starting only in 2001. He used to be a snooker player.

"Namali ako ng posisyon, bitin ang katawan at pinilit pa rin. Na-over-reckless, ayon namali ng pektus," said Reyes on his costly miscue.

With the defeat, Reyes will now need to sweep his last two games in Group 2 against Roy Apancho of Indonesia and Radoslaw Babica of Poland to make it to the last 64, knockout stage.

"Kailangan ko ng i-sweep ang last two matches. Ang problema nito, lahat ng kalaban ko gumagaling kapag ako ang kalaban," said Reyes.

Reyes and Crosby actually figured in a duel marred by a comedy of errors.

On the eventful 15 rack alone, the two players had two lapses each. Crosby first maneuvered a faulty safety on 7, Reyes misprepared on 4, Crosby misfired a cut on 5 then Reyes blew what could have been the clincher.

In contrast, reigning champion Wu Chia-ching was almost flawless in his 8-0 demolition of German Sven Pauritsch.

An ESPN man said Wu was rewarded by the Taiwanese pool association NT$10,000 for his blanking of his German rival. Wu’s also promised bigger bonus for victories against Filipino foes.

The savvy Taiwanese players were perfect in their eight matches in the tourney.

Fu Che-wei clobbered American Mike Davis, 8-4; Kuo Po-cheng clipped Norway’s Roger Lysholm, 8-6; Chang Jung-ling blanked Sweden’s Tony Fransson, 8-0; Lu Hsun-chen topped Chile’s Enrique Rojas, 8-2; Chen Ying-chieh tripped compatriot Chin Ju-chen, 8-2; Wang Hung-hsiang waylaid Malaysian Patrick Ooi Fook Yuen, 8-5; and Liu Cheng-chuan defeated Malta’s Tony Drago, 8-6.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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