Michael Smith crashes out as Raymond van Barneveld sets up generational match with teenager Luke Littler

Raymond van Barneveld set up a mouthwatering clash with teenage sensation Luke Littler after fighting through to the last 16 of the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.

Van Barneveld was far from at his best but still beat Jim Williams 4-1 to secure a Saturday clash with 16-year-old Littler, who was born 21 days after the Dutchman won the most recent of his five world titles in 2007.

Van Barneveld told Sky Sports: “I will love to play Luke Littler. When I was 16 I was playing with Lego and Playmobile, we didn’t have the internet or whatever.

“This guy is amazing, and I am looking forward so much to that game. He is a quality player and I can’t wait to meet him tomorrow night.”

Van Barneveld was not required to find top gear against Williams, a former BDO runner-up who finished with a higher average but managed to hit only seven of his 28 doubles.

Having nudged into a 3-1 lead and moved one leg from victory at 2-0, Van Barneveld missed five match darts and allowed the Welshman a glimmer of hope as he pulled back to level in the set.

But backed by the sizeable Ally Pally crowd, Van Barneveld nailed double eight for the match to book his place in the last 16 for the first time since 2018.

He added: “I was lucky to win this afternoon’s game. You have to be clinical and if you’re 2-0 up (in legs) you have to hit that double 16, and I let him back in at 2-2.

“The crowd were helping me but in the end you’re the one who throws the darts. I was in control but I felt a little bit nervous and I’m happy to go through.”

Littler, the world youth champion, is the youngest player to reach the last 16 after reeling off three impressive victories, including averaging over 106 in his first round win over Christian Kist.

Michael van Gerwen made light work of his big match against Stephen Bunting with a 4-0 demolition, but defending champion Michael Smith crashed out with a stunning 4-0 loss to Chris Dobey.

Bunting could not get any rhythm going and Van Gerwen was in an unforgiving mood, having advanced to the quarter-finals without dropping a set.

“We all knew Stephen Bunting was playing phenomenal darts,” he said.

“You have to show your best game. I don’t think I showed my best game but in patches I did the right things in the right moments.

“I am pleased with my game. We have still got a long time to go but I am feeling good.”

Dobey came into his match against Smith in fine form but even so he stunned the watching crowd as he easily dispatched the reigning champion with a 102.43 average and three 100-plus checkouts.

“He has battered me numerous times, it is just nice to get one back,” Dobey said.

Gary Anderson came from behind to beat Boris Krcmar 4-1, responding well after the Croatian snatched the first set with a 161 checkout.

“I thought it was going to be a struggle when Boris won the first set,” said Anderson, who will advance to take on Brendan Dolan.

“Sky keep telling me I’m finished but lucky for you I’m not done yet.”

Jonny Clayton advanced to the last 16 as he saw off Poland’s Krzysztof Ratajski 4-2, while Australia’s Damon Heta edged to a 4-3 win over Dutchman Berry van Peer.


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