Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero and Mo Salah close in on Ronaldo landmark

Harry Kane has scored 11 goals in 10 games in 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 02 March 2018
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Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero and Mo Salah close in on Ronaldo landmark

LONDON: Harry Kane’s prolific goalscoring has made comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo commonplace, and he now stands on the brink of a feat not seen in English football since the Portuguese departed for Real Madrid a decade ago.
Ronaldo was the last player to score 40 goals in a season for an English club when he hit 42 on his way to winning the Ballon d’Or and a league and Champions League double for Manchester United in 2007/08.
Kane is yet to win such illustrious honors, but is on course for a third straight Premier League golden boot after netting his 35th goal of the campaign late on to win a vital three points for Tottenham at Crystal Palace last weekend.
Next in his firing line are Huddersfield at Wembley on Saturday before another chance to further his burgeoning reputation on the continent in Wednesday’s massive Champions League last 16, second leg against Juventus.
“I know I’m in good form,” Kane said after scoring his 11th goal in 10 games in 2018.
“I set myself little targets and I’m going quicker than I expected to this season. I’ve got 35 now, so I just have to keep scoring goals.”
However, Kane is not alone in the race to follow Ronaldo into the 40-goal club.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has already matched Luis Suarez’s best ever tally at Anfield with 31 goals in all competitions and is just one behind Kane’s 24 in the race to be the league’s top scorer.
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has 30 in all competitions and outstrips Kane and Salah for goals per minute in the Premier League for his 21.
The fact all three surpassed the 30-goal mark before March points to a trend of a more unbalanced top flight than the norm in England.
A chasm of 25 points separate Spurs in fourth and Huddersfield in 14th.
Indeed, the gulf between the top six and the rest is symbolized by Burnley still sitting in seventh despite not having won in 11 matches stretching back to Dec. 12.
That shouldn’t diminish the scale of the achievement, though, particularly in the case of Kane, who has had to carry a greater burden than his rivals for the golden boot.
Salah was part of Liverpool’s “fab four” before Philippe Coutinho’s January departure and is still backed up ably by Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane in a front three that have combined for 66 goals this season.
Aguero has even had to fight for his place in the side ahead of Gabriel Jesus such is the competition for places in a free-scoring City side with the League Cup already in the bag and the Premier League almost certain to follow.
After Kane only Son Heung-Min has got into double figures for Spurs this season as Dele Alli’s form has dipped, whilst until his FA Cup hat-trick against third-tier Rochdale on Wednesday, Fernando Llorente had scored just two goals as Kane’s deputy up front.
When City boss Pep Guardiola called Spurs “the Harry Kane” team earlier in the campaign, Mauricio Pochettino reacted angrily.
However, it is hard to overestimate the influence of his 17 goals in Tottenham’s 16-game unbeaten run since being thrashed at the hands of City in December.
Thanks to Kane, Pochettino’s men have hit top form at the right time in their quest to qualify for next season’s Champions League and reach the last eight of this year’s competition.
Another victory on Saturday would crucially open up a five-point lead on fifth-placed Chelsea, who face a daunting trip to City on Sunday.


‘On edge’ Federer makes winning Paris return

Updated 17 min 43 sec ago
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‘On edge’ Federer makes winning Paris return

  • Angelique Kerber’s hopes of completing career Grand slam end after early exit
  • Kerber, 31, has now lost six times in the French Open first round

PARIS: Roger Federer marked his return to Roland Garros after a four-year absence with a straight sets win over Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego on Sunday, admitting he “felt on edge,” as Angelique Kerber’s hopes of completing a career Grand Slam suffered a quick kill.

Federer, a 20-time major winner, had not played the tournament since 2015 when he reached the quarterfinals.

However, on Sunday, it was as if the 37-year-old had never been away as he swept to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory in one hour 41 minutes on a packed, rebuilt Court Philippe Chatrier.

It was his 60th successive first round win at a Grand Slam.

“I felt on edge at the start, my heart was beating crazily,” said Federer, who hailed the new-look stadium which has been 90 percent rebuilt in readiness for the installation of a retractable roof for 2020.

“I felt great playing on this court. It looks very attractive, so congratulations to everyone involved.

“Hopefully I can play here again for my next match.”

That match will be against German lucky loser Oscar Otte who won just his second match in eight years on the tour by seeing off Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.

“I would be surprised if Roger knew my name,” said Otte, the world No. 145.

Federer broke serve five times and fired 36 winners past 24-year-old Sonego, the world No. 73 who made the quarterfinals at the Monte Carlo Masters.

German fifth seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Kerber saw her hopes of a career Grand Slam ended by Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova.

Kerber slumped to a 6-4, 6-2 defeat to 18-year-old Potapova who was making her French Open debut.

“Kerber is actually one of my idols, and when I was young I was looking for her game,” said the 81st-ranked Russian who hit 28 winners past her German opponent.

Kerber, 31, has now lost six times in the French Open first round.

The German left-hander had come into Roland Garros carrying a right ankle injury which forced her to pull out of the Italian Open and retire from her second round tie in Madrid.

“I didn’t have many expectations coming in,” said Kerber, who was broken six times in the match which brought the curtain up on the newlook Chatrier arena.

Potapova’s first win over a top 10 player gives her a second round clash against 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who stunned Federer on his way to the Australian Open semifinals and beat 11-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal in Madrid, also made the second round.

The 20-year-old sixth seed brushed aside Germany’s Maximilian Marterer 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).

The new Court Simonne Mathieu, a 5,000-capacity semi-sunken arena enclosed by greenhouses, was officially unveiled on Sunday.

It forms part of the €350 million upgrade of the entire site which will also see the demolition of the Court 1 ‘bullring’ after the 2018 tournament.

Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, had the honor of opening proceedings against America’s Taylor Townsend and the 19th seed marked the occasion with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win.

“It’s cute,” said the Spaniard. “It’s not small, but it’s, you know, cozy.”

Other winners on the first day included Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori, a quarterfinalist in 2015, who eased past France’s Quentin Halys 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

However, Italian 16th seed Marco Cecchinato, the man who sent Novak Djokovic crashing out in the quarterfinals in 2018, fell at the first hurdle.

Cecchinato lost to 37-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Mahut —  who has slipped to 253 in the world — 2-6, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Canada teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime withdrew from the tournament with a thigh injury, just a day after finishing runner-up to Benoit Paire in Lyon.

The 18-year-old was seeded 25 and had been due to face Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the first round on his maiden appearance in the main draw in Paris.

Auger-Aliassime’s spot in the first round draw has been taken by Spanish lucky loser Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova closed play on Chatrier with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Madison Brengle of the US.