Egyptian king lays claim to the ultimate crown

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah scores a goal against Brighton & Hove Albion on May 13, 2018. (REUTERS/Phil Noble)
Updated 20 May 2018
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Egyptian king lays claim to the ultimate crown

  • No one has had a season quite like Salah. His 44 goals are easily of Messi or Ronaldo-standard in both quantity and quality.
  • Should Salah help the Reds bring back the big trophy to Anfield for a sixth time, then even those who vote for the elusive Ballon d’Or might just have to bow down to the Egyptian king.

LONDON: A flick. A subtle nod. A tap into the open net.
Mohamed Salah’s brilliant, impudent goal against Porto in the Champions League round of 16 did more than help Liverpool to a commanding 5-0 first-leg lead. It also sparked comparisons with a certain Argentine number 10.
As Liverpool qualified for their first quarterfinal appearance in Europe’s premier competition in 10 years, Salah could do no wrong, the label “Messi-esque” increasingly being used to describe his game and goals.
For many, even Liverpool fans, this seemed premature.
It was before Liverpool’s quarterfinal tie with Manchester City in March, as he racked up goal after goal, and award after award, that serious comparisons with this century’s two greatest players began.
The comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo remain unnecessary. Salah, many maintain, has some way to go before he can be mentioned alongside two players whose achievements have been peerless for well over a decade.
Yet the 25-year-old Egyptian continued to meet every challenge, pass every test, and obliterate ever obstacle placed in his way in what has turned out to be a historic season.
In April, a seemingly unstoppable Manchester City were swept aside in the Champions League quarterinals, Salah scoring in both legs, the second ending the tie as contest in front of a stunned Etihad Stadium.
Incredibly, Salah would hit even greater heights in the first leg of the semifinal against Roma at Anfield.
The Kop’s new idol scored two stunning goals in the first half and reduced his former teammates to a defensive wreck by setting up goals for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino in the second. It was a truly devastating performance from a player at the peak of his powers.
Acclaim poured from every direction, and so did the accolades. PFA Player’s Player of the year. The FWA Player of the Year, Premier League Player of the year, and the Premier League Golden Boot award, not to mention many more weekly and monthly awards.
So why not the Ballon d’Or?
The main factor against him seems to be that his name is neither Messi nor Ronaldo, the winners of the past 10 gongs between them. And it is hard to make case against them, beyond familiarity breeding contempt.
Also, rightly or wrongly, the Ballon d’Or often goes to the player that has had the biggest impact on the destination of major club and international trophies.
Messi has already claimed a La Liga and Copa del Rey double with Barcelona in Spain, and Ronaldo’s Real Madrid will go head to head with Salah’s Liverpool in the Champions League final on Saturday.
But in many ways, there is a strong case for Salah deserving the award regardless of the outcome in Kiev. Whatever your thoughts on individual awards — and many see them as an indulgence — they are there to reward individual performances, not to complement medals won already. Likewise, they are not lifetime awards, they are seasonal.
And no one has had a season quite like Salah. His 44 goals are easily of Messi or Ronaldo-standard in both quantity and quality. Add the fact they have been racked up with only one penalty and no free-kicks and the numbers are sensational.
Above all, Salah has done it all without compromising Jurgen
Klopp’s team-first ethos, consistently providing assists for his teammates and playing his part in the German coach’s famed gegenpress system.
On Saturday, Liverpool will face Real Madrid as underdogs, just as they would prefer it. No doubt, Klopp and Salah would give up every one of those individual awards for a glorious night in Kiev.
Yet should Salah help the Reds bring back the big trophy to Anfield for a sixth time, then even those who vote for the elusive Ballon d’Or might just have to bow down to the Egyptian king.


Joe Root ton puts England on top against Sri Lanka

Updated 17 November 2018
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Joe Root ton puts England on top against Sri Lanka

KANDY: Captain Joe Root smashed 124 and newcomer Ben Foakes again hit valuable tail end runs to put England in command of the second Test against Sri Lanka on Friday.
England reached 324 for nine — a second innings lead of 278 — when bad light stopped play for the day in Kandy.
Foakes was batting on 51 alongside James Anderson on four.
Spinner Akila Danajanya, whose action is under investigation by the International Cricket Council, claimed six wickets on the turning pitch.
He trapped Root lbw and then bowled Sam Curran for nought with his next ball. Adil Rashid thwarted the hat-trick but soon fell to Dananjaya’s guile for two.
It was his third five wicket haul in just his fifth Test for Dananjaya, who must rush off to Australia after the game for an ICC examination of his bowling.
He however could not stop Root and Foakes swinging the game.
Root reached his 15th Test ton soon after tea, making the sweep and reverse sweep valuable weapons, as he hit 10 fours and two sixes in his 146-ball knock.
Root said he enjoyed making the runs despite the pressure.
“That’s what it should be. You shouldn’t feel pressure like the pressure is too much for you, you should enjoy the occasion and make the most of the opportunity in front of you,” he said after the day’s play.
“The whole group managed to harness that today and make the most of it.”
Root raised his bat to a standing ovation from traveling English fans who also lauded Foakes.
Root made an 82-run seventh wicket stand with Foakes, who reached his fifty with a six off Dilruwan Perera. The hit turned out to be the last ball of the day with dark clouds gathering and thunder heard in the distance.
As he did in his sparkling century on Test debut in the opening game of the series, Foakes mixed caution and aggression to push up the England score.
Every one of England’s top seven batsmen were out attempting a sweep of some description.
Jos Buttler dragged one of Dananjaya’s deliveries onto his stumps while trying to reverse sweep on 34. Moeen Ali was trapped lbw for 10 after failing to connect with an attempted sweep.
“From my point of view, it was almost a safer shot than playing the forward defensive,” said Root.
“With the amount the ball was turning there’s a lot of risk involved in that. At times attack is the best form of defense on a wicket like that.”
Earlier, left-hander Rory Burns registered his maiden Test half-century in just his second match. He was trapped lbw off Malinda Pushpakumara for 59.
Burns then put together 73 runs for the second wicket with Keaton Jennings, who made 26, to steady the innings and help England overcome their 46-run deficit.
“I think the temptation with a deficit like that going into the second innings is to play within your shell and be a bit insular but the guys went out and set the tone at top of the order,” said Root.
“It was really pleasing to see inexperienced guys as Test cricketers really set the benchmark for the rest of the group, a really good platform for us.
“Hopefully we still stretch the lead further and that should be a good chase on this surface.”