Golden Boot winners Salah and Son prove African and Asian players among the world’s best

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (L) and Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 May 2022

Golden Boot winners Salah and Son prove African and Asian players among the world’s best

  • South Korea’s Son netted twice in Tottenham’s 5-0 win at Norwich to move to 23 goals — one clear of Salah, but the Egypt forward struck late in Liverpool’s 3-1 win at home to Wolves
  • The former Chelsea and Roma star, Salah, now matches Alan Shearer’s record with a third Premier League golden boot

The English Premier League came into existence in the summer of 1992, just as two of its future stars were being born: Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min, who now share the Golden Boot for the 2021-22 season.

It has been won jointly before, sometimes by three players.

That was the case in the 1997-98 season when the local trio of Chris Sutton, Michael Owen, and Dion Dublin all found the target 18 times each.

Twenty years later, Salah was the best and the following season the Egyptian topped the charts along with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane in a special time for African football. This time, however, after a three-way and solo success, the 29-year-old Egyptian collects his third award but shares it with South Korean Son, it is a noticeable pairing.

Salah and Son have scored 23 goals over the campaign that finished on Sunday, with Liverpool finishing second behind Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur taking fourth, and the last UEFA Champions League spot, above rivals Arsenal.

Of the top two goalscorers in the most popular league in the world, one is African and one is from Asia. It shows the global power of football and the talent that exists in all corners of the world. Such a thing would have been almost unthinkable 25 years ago.

Salah’s goal-scoring exploits have become so commonplace that fans and media can forget just how impressive they are. The former Chelsea and Roma star now matches Alan Shearer’s record with a third Premier League golden boot. He has now scored 118 goals in 180 games in the competition. Such consistency over five seasons, his lowest total was 19 back in 2019-20, is truly impressive.

This is the first such prize for Son and comes after his best season for Tottenham Hotspur in terms of scoring, beating his previous highest tally of 17 from the last time around.

Unlike Salah, who hit the ground running as soon as he arrived at Liverpool, it took the South Korean some time to find his feet in North London after arriving from Bayer Leverkusen in August 2015. There was even talk that he would leave the club at the end of his first season. From then, however, he quickly became a fan favorite. This season has been one to remember, especially as the 29 -year-old has, unlike Salah who managed five from the penalty spot, scored all his from open play.

Both these players would walk into any team in Europe. They are the cream of their respective continents, but to describe Salah as the best African player and Son as the best from Asia undersells them a little.

Both are simply two of the best players in the world and deserve to be described as such. Africa has had a few of those in the past. George Weah won the Ballon d’Or in 1995 while Didier Drogba, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez, and Samuel Eto’o all came fairly close in the past. That has not been the case in Asia. There have been plenty of talented players from the East, but none have established themselves as one of the best players in one of the big leagues in the way that Son has managed over the last few years.

If Spurs were challenging for titles, then Son would surely be the first Asian star to make an impact when it came to voting for the world player of the year. There has been some surprise that he has not gone to one of the global elite such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, or Liverpool, a place where he would win domestic titles and challenge for the Champions League, and there has not really been any speculation over his future.

Unlike Salah, the Asian player signed a lengthy new contract with his club last year, which has reduced that conversation. There is also the presence of an even bigger star, in English terms at least, as England captain Harry Kane gets more attention from the local media. Son has helped his team qualify for next year’s premier continental competition, and if he shines in that tournament, then there is a chance of being part of that global conversation. Son also suffers a little as his national team is unlikely to go too far at the World Cup, while Salah’s Egypt are not there at all. If these two nations were getting to semi-finals and finals, then these players really would be even bigger stars than they are right now.

Salah’s club situation is a little different. He has won and is still winning trophies and has lifted English Premier League, European, and world titles. His contract status - his deal ends in a year - has been the subject of a lot of speculation though it seems likely that the North African will stay at Anfield as there is still the prospect of more glory. While Son was delighted with his goals at Norwich that won him the award and helped his team finish fourth, Salah was disappointed that his 23rd strike couldn’t help the Reds finish above second. At least he has had the FA and the League Cup this season, and this weekend he has the chance to get revenge on Real Madrid for that 2018 defeat as the two powerhouses meet in the final in Paris.

Whatever happens on Saturday, this has been another great season for Mo Salah and another one in which Son Heung-min has shown what a fine player he is. To have sons of Egypt and South Korea on top of the Premier League goal-scoring charts is the global game at its best.

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Tiger Woods looking at British Open as historic occasion

Updated 23 sec ago

Tiger Woods looking at British Open as historic occasion

  • Woods won in 2000 by eight shots to complete the career Grand Slam at age 24
  • He won again in 2005 to complete a different kind of slam

NEW YORK: The British Open is scheduled for Royal Liverpool, Royal Troon and Royal Portrush over the next three years. The Old Course at St. Andrews typically is used every five years.

That adds to the perspective of Tiger Woods playing this year.

When he said Tuesday that “this is a pretty historic Open,” Woods just as well could have been talking about himself as the 150th anniversary of golf’s oldest championship.

“I’m lucky enough to be part of the past champions that have won there, and want to play there again, and I don’t know when they are ever going to go back while I’m still able to play at a high level,” Woods said at the J.P. McManus Pro-Am in Ireland. “I want to be able to give it at least one more run at a high level.”

Woods won in 2000 by eight shots to complete the career Grand Slam at age 24. He won again in 2005 to complete a different kind of slam. Each time Jack Nicklaus played a major for the last time, Woods won.

He is 46 and still walking gingerly at times from his right leg and ankle being pieced back together following his February 2021 car crash outside of Los Angeles.

Woods returned to play the Masters and PGA Championship, both times making the cut, though he withdrew after the third round at Southern Hills. He skipped the US Open, though not necessarily by choice.

“The plan was to play the US Open, but physically I was not able to do that,” Woods said at Adare Manor. “There’s no way physically I could have done that. I had some issues with my leg and it would have put this tournament in jeopardy, and so there’s no reason to do that.”

That he is even playing is remarkable considering the nature of his injuries, particularly the threat of having part of his leg amputated, which doctors were able to avoid.

He has no idea how much longer he can play, or at least compete. Woods is unlikely to tee it up after the British Open until December, either at his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas or what has become his fifth major, the PNC Championship with son Charlie.

“If you asked me last year whether I would play golf again, all of my surgeons would have said, ‘No,’” Woods said. “Now if you say, ‘Play at a championship level,’ well, that window is definitely not as long as I would like it to be.”

OPEN RAILING

The grand celebration of the 150th anniversary of the British Open coincides with a dispute between ScotRail and ASLEF, the union for train drivers.

As a result, the R&A has contacted ticket holders to advise they travel to the Old Course by road or alternative public transport. Nearly 300,000 spectators are expect for the British Open next week.

ScotRail has limited service because of the dispute. It said trains between Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen to Leuchars — the closest station to St. Andrews — would run every hour on tournament days.

The R&A said it will increase capacity at park-and-ride facilities to cope with more cars. Travel time to the Old Course is likely to take a lot longer.

“Due to circumstances out of our control, we have no choice but to urge fans to not travel by rail to The Open and to use alternative means of transport to get to and from St. Andrews next week,” said Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, executive director of championship at the R&A. “There is a risk that fans who travel by train may find there are no services to get them home.”


Malacia becomes Ten Hag’s first signing at Man United

Updated 06 July 2022

Malacia becomes Ten Hag’s first signing at Man United

  • Ten Hag’s recruitment drive is starting to gather pace, with Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen reportedly agreeing to join United on a free transfer after his impressive loan spell at Brentford last season

LONDON: Manchester United completed their swoop for Feyenoord defender Tyrell Malacia on Tuesday as Erik ten Hag made his first signing since taking charge at Old Trafford.

United landed Malacia in a reported £12.95 million ($15.4 million) deal after making a late move for the Netherlands fullback, who had been close to joining French club Lyon.

The 22-year-old has agreed a four-year contract with the option of a further 12 months.

It is a landmark deal for Ten Hag, who had been linked with a host of potential signings before finally making Malacia the first acquisition of his United reign.

Ten Hag arrived at United in May after finishing his successful spell at Ajax, where he had plenty of opportunities to see Malacia’s quality with Dutch rivals Feyenoord.

Malacia, who made 136 appearances for Feyenoord, said: “It’s an incredible feeling to have joined Manchester United. This is a new chapter for me, a new league with new team-mates and a tremendous manager leading us.

“I know from playing against his teams in the Eredivisie, the qualities that he has and what he demands of his players.

“While I know that I am still young and will continue to develop, I can promise the United fans that I will leave everything on the pitch every time I pull on the red shirt.”

Malacia, who plays largely at leftback, is expected to be part of the United squad that leaves for the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia on Friday.

“I’ll always be thankful to Feyenoord for all they have given to me and my family. None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for them,” Malacia said.

“Now I’m ready to focus on the future with United, and help my new club achieve success.”

Capped five times by the Netherlands, Malacia is likely to compete with England leftback Luke Shaw for a place in United’s starting lineup.

“Tyrell is an exciting, dynamic young footballer with excellent experience for his age, including five seasons in the Eredivisie, a European final and full international honors for the Netherlands,” United football director John Murtough said.

“We look forward to seeing him continue to develop under the guidance of Erik ten Hag and his coaching team in the years ahead.”

Ten Hag’s recruitment drive is starting to gather pace, with Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen reportedly agreeing to join United on a free transfer after his impressive loan spell at Brentford last season.

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie De Jong and Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez have also been linked with moves to Old Trafford.

As well as overhauling a squad that finished a disappointing sixth in the Premier League last season, Ten Hag must resolve the future of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo missed training for “family reasons” on Monday after reportedly asking for a transfer following United’s failure to qualify for the Champions League.

United are said to be determined to hold onto the Portugal striker, who finished as their top scorer last season.


Van Aert wins stage 4 in style and extends Tour overall lead

Updated 06 July 2022

Van Aert wins stage 4 in style and extends Tour overall lead

  • The 27-year-old Van Aert is considered one of the best multi-skilled riders in the world and is a former three-time cyclo-cross world champion and a one-day classics specialist

CALAIS, France: Belgian rider Wout van Aert won the hilly fourth stage of the Tour de France and extended his overall lead after attacking strongly on the day’s final climb on Tuesday.

The Belgian rider kept the leader’s yellow jersey for the Jumbo–Visma team after taking it for the first time on Saturday. He also extended his lead in the green jersey contest for best sprinter.

Van Aert shook up the peloton when he surged ahead up the last of the five climbs — a 900-meter ascent up Cote du Cap Blanc-Nez at a gradient of 7.5  percent — about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the end.

The 27-year-old Van Aert is considered one of the best multi-skilled riders in the world and is a former three-time cyclo-cross world champion and a one-day classics specialist.

The Jumbo-Visma rider flapped his hands like a bird’s wings as he sat up on his bike. He crossed the line eight seconds clear of countryman Jasper Philipsen of the Alpecin–Fenix team, with Jumbo-Visma teammate Christophe Laporte taking third place in a sprint finish.

Van Aert picked up a 10-second time bonus and is now 25 seconds ahead of Yves Lampaert in the overall standings and 32 seconds clear of two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar.

Pogacar’s rival Primoz Roglic, the 2020 Tour runner-up and Van Aert’s teammate, stayed seventh overall and remained nine seconds behind Pogacar, with both finishing in the main pack.

After a travel day, riders tackled a sunny 171.5-kilometer (106.3-mile) route from the coastal city of Dunkirk to Calais, where riders could see the English coastline when they arrived into the much-used port location. Van Aert completed it in 4 hours, 1 minute, 36 seconds.

Danish rider Magnus Cort, who thrilled crowds with his breakaway rides during three intense days in Denmark, was again in the early breakaway — this time alongside Anthony Perez.

Perez pulled ahead some 45 kilometers (28 miles) out and Cort was caught by the peloton shortly after. Cort picked up more points in the polka-dot jersey bid but much more difficult climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees are still to come.

Wednesday’s fifth stage is a flat stage for sprinters over 157 kilometers (97 miles) starting at Lille Metropole and going over some of the feared cobblestones that feature on the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic.

The race ends on July 24 in Paris.


Korda sisters set for sun-drenched showdown at the $1m Aramco Team Series Sotogrande

Updated 05 July 2022

Korda sisters set for sun-drenched showdown at the $1m Aramco Team Series Sotogrande

  • Nelly and Jessica Korda to compete at La Reserva Club, Aug. 18-20
  • First time the pair will have played in Spain; their second Aramco Team Series event

JEDDAH: American sisters Nelly and Jessica Korda are heading to Spain for the first time, with both confirmed for next month’s $1 million Aramco Team Series Sotogrande.

The siblings will tee off in front of their maiden Spanish crowd at La Reserva Club, Aug. 18-20, in what will be their second Aramco Team Series event presented by the Public Investment Fund.

Both Nelly and Jessica were part of history when they played in last year’s debut Aramco Team Series New York, the first-ever Ladies European Tour event to be played on US soil.

For older sister Jessica — a six-time LPGA-winner — that was just the start of a history-making week, as she captained her team to victory in the event’s unique four-ball format.

Former world No. 1 and US Olympic gold medalist Nelly was one shot shy of bagging the same tournament’s concurrent solo contest. 

Nelly Korda at the Aramco Team Series New York. (Supplied)

Now, both will return to battle it out against the biggest and best names on the Ladies European Tour under the Sotogrande sun this summer.

“I’m so excited to be heading to play in Spain for the first time,” said major-winner Nelly, currently ranked world No. 3.

“It’ll actually be my first ever time visiting Spain, so I’m really looking forward to getting there and seeing and experiencing what I’ve always imagined to be this amazing culture. The golf course at La Reserva looks incredible too so it should be a great week.

“Jess and I both played in the Aramco Team Series event in New York last year and loved the format. It’s something different having the separate team-individual formats going on at the same time which is fun,” she continued. “With the Solheim Cup taking place just round the corner from Sotogrande next year, this will also be the perfect opportunity for me and some of the other Americans in the field to get a bit of a lay of the land and a feel for playing in Spain, with the hope of being back there 12 months later. I’m excited to get out there and can’t wait to see what Sotogrande has in store for us.”

Jessica — who has finished in the top 10 in all five women’s majors — said: “New York’s Aramco Team Series was a great event. Having won the team side of it was a lot of fun. I am looking forward to getting a chance to play that same format again.

“I’ve never actually played in Spain — this will be my first time. Spain has had such a massive influence on golf, from big name players like Seve (Ballesteros), Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm to Carlota Ciganda and the many Spanish girls making an impact on both the LPGA and LET.

“The Spanish fans are known to have some fiery passion too, so I can’t wait to tee it up in front of them for what should be a pretty special atmosphere in Sotogrande.”

The pair will be joined by a host of big-name Spanish golfers, including Solheim Cup hero Ciganda, rising talent Ana Pelaez Trivino, Nuria Iturrioz and Carmen Alonso, as part of a field packed with global stars, more of whom will be announced in due course.

To secure tickets — which start at just €5 ($5.14) — or to find out more, visit aramcoteamseries.com or follow the event on social media @aramco_series.

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Jabeur makes history as 1st Arab woman to qualify to Grand Slam’s last four

Updated 05 July 2022

Jabeur makes history as 1st Arab woman to qualify to Grand Slam’s last four

  • Jabeur will next face close friend and mother-of-two Tatjana Maria
  • Djokovic said he had to give himself a talking to after going two sets down

LONDON: Ons Jabeur has become the first Arab woman to book a place in the last-four of a Grand Slam after the world number two, of Tunisia, defeated Marie Bouzkova on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, defending champion Novak Djokovic battled back from two sets down to reach an 11th Wimbledon semifinal.
Djokovic triumphed 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 over Italian 10th seed Jannik Sinner, recovering from a two-set deficit for the seventh time in his career.
The Serb will face Britain’s Cameron Norrie, who also needed five sets to get past David Goffin of Belgium, 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.
As for Jabeur, she defeated Bouzkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.
She will next face close friend and mother-of-two Tatjana Maria, who defeated fellow unseeded German Jule Niemeier, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Djokovic, a 20-time major winner, said he had to give himself a talking to after going two sets down.
“The first two sets compared to the next three were like two different matches,” he said.
“But at the end of the second set I took a toilet break, gave myself a little pep talk, tried to gather my thoughts.
“I broke early in the third set. I saw a little bit of doubt start to come into his movement. I have many years’ experience of playing on these courts and coping with the pressure.”
Djokovic is no stranger to Grand Slam adversity, having twice come back from two sets down as recently as last year’s French Open.
The second of those stunning recoveries was in the final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
After Tuesday’s bathroom break, he returned to court and grabbed a break in the fourth game of the third set as he trimmed his quarter-final deficit.
In control, the 35-year-old levelled the tie with a double break in the fourth set as Sinner took a worrying tumble on his ankle scrambling to the Center Court net.
Djokovic carved out two more breaks in the decider, the second off the back of a stunning, cross-court backhand on the stretch to go to 5-2 before calmly serving it out.
“I played well but he raised his level,” said Sinner, who had never won a grass-court match before Wimbledon.
Ninth seed Norrie got the better of 58th-ranked Goffin to make the last four of a Slam for the first time.
Left-hander Norrie said he was struggling at the start of the match, admitting he was forced to dig deep.
“It was all just adrenaline, using my legs and trying to put the ball in the court, and it’s great to get over the line,” he said.
Norrie, the first British man to reach the Wimbledon semifinals since Andy Murray in 2016, said he was going to “take it” to top seed Djokovic.
The result was tough on Goffin, who made the quarter-finals on his last appearance at Wimbledon in 2019.
The Belgian hit more winners, 49 to 38, and won more points, with his 151 trumping Norrie’s 145.
Jabeur, the only top 15 seed to make the last-eight in the women’s tournament, battled back to see off 66th-ranked Bouzkova of the Czech Republic.
The Tunisian was broken twice as she lost the first set but lost only two games after that to power to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 win.
Jabeur described semifinal opponent Maria as her “barbecue buddy.”
“It’s going to be tough to play her, she is a great friend,” she said.
“I am really happy she is in a semifinal — look at her now, she is in a semifinal after having two babies. It is an amazing story.”
Maria, 34, who saved two match points in the previous round against Jelena Ostapenko, made her Grand Slam debut in 2007 and had never progressed beyond the third round at a major before this year’s Wimbledon.
“I have goosebumps everywhere,” said the world number 103, who returned from maternity leave just under a year ago.
“My two little girls, it’s a dream to live this with my family, to live this with my two girls. Almost one year ago I gave birth, it’s crazy.”
The remaining quarter-finals take place on Wednesday.
In the men’s event, Rafael Nadal faces Taylor Fritz of the United States while Nick Kyrgios takes on Chile’s Cristian Garin.
Simona Halep, the 2019 women’s champion, tackles Amanda Anisimova of the United States while Ajla Tomljanovic takes on big-serving Elena Rybakina.