Mohamed Salah favorite to complete awards hat-trick

Mohamed Salah's career has taken off since he moved to Liverpool. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Mohamed Salah favorite to complete awards hat-trick

ACCRA: Egypt star Mohamed Salah hopes to add the African Player of the Year award in Ghana on Thursday to his rapidly expanding collection of individual honors.
The Liverpool forward, scorer of 23 goals in all competitions midway through his first season at Anfield, has been voted BBC African Footballer of the Year and Arab Player of the Year.
Salah, Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane of Senegal and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund and Gabon are the contenders for the highest African individual football honor.
The scoring feats of Salah have installed him as the public and media favorite to succeed Algerian Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City as the number one African footballer.
“I want to be the best Egyptian footballer ever,” said Salah after receiving the BBC award last month.
“When I came to Liverpool I hoped to show everyone my abilities. I scored a lot of goals with Roma and am very happy being successful at Liverpool.”
Salah and Mane will leave Accra soon after the awards ceremony as Liverpool have a Friday night FA Cup third-round derby date with Everton.
However, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp did not hesitate to release his African duo for the Accra ceremony, which will include six other awards.
“It is a sign of respect,” he told reporters in Liverpool. “We sleep in a hotel and they sleep in a plane. That is the only difference.”
Salah is a doubt for the Merseyside showdown, though, having missed the English Premier League victory at Burnley this week owing to a groin strain.
Should Salah be named Player of the Year, he will be only the second Egyptian after 1983 winner Mahmoud al Khatib to hoist the symbol of individual brilliance.
It would be the first time since 1986 that north Africans have won successive editions of the annual poll, which this year involved national coaches, journalists, officials and the public.
Morocco midfielder Mohamed Timoumi was the 1985 winner, followed by compatriot Badou Zaki, one of two goalkeepers to be voted the best African footballer.
Footballers from the west of the continent have dominated recently with Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon and Yaya Toure of the Ivory Coast each winning four times.
While Salah has made the top three for the first time, prolific Bundesliga scorer Aubameyang finished first once and second twice in the past three award ceremonies.
Mane came third last season, but his valuable input for Liverpool has been overshadowed by Salah, second in the Premier League scorers’ charts behind Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur.

THE CONTENDERS
Player of the Year
:
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (GAB, Borussia Dortmund/GER), Sadio Mane (SEN, Liverpool/ENG), Mohamed Salah (EGY, Liverpool)
Women’s Player of the Year:
Chrestina Kgatlana (RSA, UWC Ladies), Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene (CMR, CSKA Moscow/RUS), Asizat Oshoala (NGR, Dalian Quanjian/CHN)
Youth Player of the Year:
Patson Daka (ZAM, Liefering/AUT), Krepin Diatta (SEN, Sarpsborg/NOR), Salam Giddou (MLI, Guidars)
Coach of the Year:
Hussein Amoutta (Wydad Casablanca/MAR), Hector Cuper (EGY), Gernot Rohr (NGR)
Club of the Year:
Al Ahly (EGY), TP Mazembe (COD), Wydad Casablanca
National Team of the Year:
Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria
Women’s National Team of the Year:
Ghana U-20, Nigeria U-20, South Africa


WHAT WE LEARNED: A miracle in Miami, dominant Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers feel the strain

Updated 14 min 57 sec ago
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WHAT WE LEARNED: A miracle in Miami, dominant Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers feel the strain

LONDON: With a fantastic finish and a dominant defense, there has been a lot to talk about in the NFL this week.

A MIRACLE IN MIAMI


What a finish at the Hard Rock Stadium. The Patriots looked to have sewn the game up on their way to sealing their 10th-straight AFC East title in the process. Stephen Gostkowski’s field goal put New England five ahead with 18 seconds left, but the Miami Dolphins had other ideas. In a move reminiscent of the now legendary touchdown in a college football match between Stanford and the California Golden Bears — simply called “The Play” — Ryan Tannehill threw a good pass to Kenny Stills who burst forward 14 yards before laterally passing the ball to DeVante Parker, who then passed to Kenyan Drake who weaved his way 52 yards for a seemingly impossible score. In a sport defined by meticulous planning, it was breathtaking to watch a brilliant piece of spontaneity.

It's a case of catch me if you can for Kenyan Drake as he seals victory for the Dolphins against the Patriots. 



BATTLE OF OFFENSE VS. DEFENSE

The Chicago Bears and the LA Rams clashed this week in a game billed as a meeting of the league’s best defense and one of its best offenses. Good defenses will win you titles and it was the backline of the Bears that came out on top. For Chicago to restrict the rampant Rams to six points — 29 points fewer than their season average per game this season — tells the whole story. The Bears now have 25 interceptions for the year, of those their cornerback Kyle Fuller has seven. As we near the playoffs, you can guarantee that nobody will relish coming up against these measly Bears.

The 'they shall not pass' mentality of the Bears proved too good for the usually free-scoring Rams and could be good enough for Super Bowl glory this season. 



COWBOYS BACK IN THE RODEO


In a game they should have won long before a late Eagles flourish tied the game in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys got over the line in overtime and have all but sealed the NFC East division to return to the playoffs after missing out last year. There was a touch of fortune about Amari Cooper’s winning touchdown. He juggled a catch to take it home after Eagles’ Rasul Douglas tipped an interception into the air, but there was nothing lucky about Cooper’s overall performance. He scored three touchdowns and caused the Eagles’ defense a headache all game. His signing from the Oakland Raiders has been a masterstroke by owner Jerry Jones. The Cowboys are unlikely to go all the way, but for such a storied franchise, making the postseason is seen as achieving the bare minimum.

The Cowboys, for whom success used to be second nature, are back in the playoffs after missing out last year. 



TROUBLE IN PITTSBURGH

The Steelers’ woe continued this week with a third straight defeat, this time to the previously 2-10 Oakland Raiders. Their head coach Jon Gruden celebrated the win like he had won the Super Bowl, but the Raiders were definitely helped by Ben Roethlisberger’s rib injury in the first half — the iconic Steelers quarterback should be fit for their home clash with the Patriots next week — but take nothing away from Oakland. They certainly did not play like a team propping up the AFC. For Pittsburgh, they need to find at least two wins from the final three games to be sure of a spot in the playoffs.

The Steelers are looking less than sturdy the closer the playoffs get.