Continental Europe picked up 3 1/2 out of five points in Friday’s fourball matches to reduce Britain and Ireland’s lead to one point in the Vivendi Seve Trophy.
Britain and Ireland led 4-1 after Thursday’s fourballs, but Continental Europe won three matches and halved one on Friday to cut the margin to 5 1/2 to 4 1/2 heading into the weekend.
VIVENDI SEVE TROPHY
At the encouragement of Seve Ballesteros, the European Tour created the Vivendi Seve Trophy in 2000 as a Ryder Cup-style event to be played in non-Ryder Cup years.
Peter Hanson and Alexander Noren beat Englishmen Ian Poulter and Robert Rock 5 and 3 to give Continental Europe the first point.
Thomas Bjorn and Raphael Jacquelin halved their match with Simon Dyson and Jamie Donaldson.
Mark Foster and Lee Westwood defeated Anders Hansen and Francesco Molinari 5 and 3 for Britain and Ireland’s only win.
Miguel Angel Jimenez and Pablo Larrazabal beat Darren Clarke and David Horsey 3 and 2, while Nicolas Colsaerts and Matteo Manassero defeated Ross Fisher and Scott Jamieson by two holes.
Play continues with four greensomes and four foursomes on Saturday, and 10 singles matches on Sunday.
Spanish golf great Seve Ballesteros created the event, a biennial competition, to help Europeans get more match-play experience outside the Ryder Cup. Britain and Ireland has won the trophy five straight times after Continental Europe captured the inaugural event in 2000.
Continental Europe Captain Jean van de Velde praised his team as they fought back, and the change in fortunes justified Van de Velde's changes to the pairings. Britain and Ireland Captain Paul McGinley stuck with the combinations that did so well on the opening day.
"I'm very proud of what they've done and what I've seen today,” said Van de Velde. "They were really focused from the first hole. Yesterday was a shaky start and some of them couldn't find their rhythm. They were not there. Today they tried and they knew what they had to do to play well. I'm very happy."
Van de Velde was especially pleased with the efforts of top pairing Thomas Bjorn and Raphael Jacquelin, who fought back from 3 down to square the round against Simon Dyson and Jamie Donaldson and take a crucial half-point.
"It was a big half-point on the first game," Van de Velde said. "They were trailing all the way and they managed to raise their game up considerably in the last five holes so I'm pleased with that last half-point. I'm pleased with everything and a good result."
It seemed the Europeans were in a dominant mood after the pairings were mixed up and refreshed from the opening day.
Van de Velde's trust in the inexperienced duo of Colsaerts and Manassero paid off as they found their rhythm, having lost 1 down against Darren Clarke and David Horsey on Thursday.
"Matteo is 30th in the world so of course he's a rookie but he's a pretty good rookie,” said Van de Velde. "You still have to implement the trust you have in them. It's not because it didn't work out I was going to throw everything away.
"They held on through the pressure and they went down to the wire,” he explained. "They could have closed it on 17 but fine, he didn't, they were here on the 18th on the green and I am very pleased with that."
McGinley was disappointed after the change in fortunes for his team, but saved special praise for world No. 2 Lee Westwood.
"We didn't play with the same intensity and they were fired up," McGinley said. "A couple of their players played really well and carried them through. Obviously we know they've got quality in their team and we didn't hole the putts we did yesterday.
"We're playing at the very top level in the world and sometimes the other guys will go out and play better than you."
Speaking of Westwood, McGinley added: "I think he won that match on his own. Fozzy (Foster) was great when he needed to be but Westwood made birdies and eagles when he needed to.
"We needed to win a point and it looked at one stage that we were going to struggle to win any,” he added. "Lee Westwood was very important for us. He carried it through and carried the team today."
Peter Hanson/Alex Noren, CE, def. Ian Poulter/Robert Rock, BI, 5&3
Thomas Bjorn/Raphael Jacquelin, CE, halved, Simon Dyson/Jamie Donaldson, BI
Mark Foster/Lee Westwood, BI, def. Anders Hansen/Francesco Molinari, 5&3
Miguel Angel Jimenez/Pablo Larrazabal, CE, def. Darren Clarke/David Horsey, 3&2
Nicolas Colsaerts/Matteo Manassero, CE, def. Ross Fisher/Scott Jamieson, 2 holes