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.


“Captain fantastic” Harry Kane to the rescue as England beat Tunisia at the death

Updated 18 June 2018
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“Captain fantastic” Harry Kane to the rescue as England beat Tunisia at the death

  • Harry Kane came to the rescue with two goals, the second a dramatic injury-time winner
  • England had started brightly in a blur of passing and movement and could have been two goals up inside the first four minutes

VOLGOGRAD, Russia: Captain Harry Kane came to the rescue with two goals, the second a dramatic injury-time winner, as England began their World Cup Group G campaign with a stuttering 2-1 win over Tunisia on Monday.
Gareth Southgate’s men almost paid a heavy price for missing a slew of first-half chances when Tunisia’s Ferjani Sassi slotted home a softly-awarded penalty 20 minutes before half-time.
And the north Africans were still level as the game went past the 90-minute mark.
But Harry Maguire won a header from a corner and Kane was on hand at the far post to nod in the winner before being mobbed by his ecstatic teammates.
“I’m so proud of the lads,” Kane said. “They kept going, kept going to the last second.
“I am absolutely buzzing, everyone on the staff is. It shows good character to get the job done.”
England had started brightly in a blur of passing and movement and could have been two goals up inside the first four minutes.
First Jordan Henderson’s lofted first-time pass released Dele Alli and when the ball eventually broke to Jesse Lingard he saw his shot from six yards saved by the outstretched left boot of Mouez Hassen in the Tunisia goal.
Kane had been kept quiet in the opening salvos but he exploded into action in the 11th minute when he cut inside from the left and saw his shot from the edge of the box deflected wide for a corner.
Ashley Young delivered the set piece for John Stones to rise highest and meet with a powerful header. Hassen saved acrobatically but Kane was on hand to tap home the rebound with his right foot and open his World Cup account.
Hassen, who had injured his left shoulder making an earlier save, could not continue and left the field in tears as he was replaced in goal by Farouk Ben Mustapha.
England continued to press and were made to pay for not converting a succession of chances when they conceded a soft penalty.
Kyle Walker swung a lazy arm across Fakhreddine Ben Youssef who fell as if poleaxed and Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan pointed to the spot, with his decision being upheld by the VAR.
Ferjani Sassi took one step and fired home confidently past the hitherto unemployed Jordan Pickford and Tunisia who had been outplayed for the first half-hour were somehow level 10 minutes before half-time.
Still there was time for Lingard to come close again twice, first from a goalbound shot and then a dink over the keeper which agonizingly struck the post.
Alli too hit the woodwork with a header and England went into half-time wondering how they had not sealed victory already.
England still enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but could not find the same zip and penetration they had enjoyed at the start of the first half.
The ineffective Sterling gave way to Marcus Rashford with just over 20 minutes to go and the Manchester United man almost fashioned a chance straight away with a jinking run into the box.