Salah, Mane And Mahrez Battle For African Player Of Year Award

 

Mohamed Salah will face competition from Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane if he is to sweep a third consecutive African Player of the Year award.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) tweeted that Egypt’s Salah, Mane of Senegal as well Manchester City’s Algerian forward Riyad Mahrez were on the shortlist for the award.

Salah was crowned the continent’s top player in 2017 and 2018 while Mahrez took it in 2016.

READ ALSO: Oshoala, Osimhen, Chukwueze Make Final List Of 2019 CAF Awards

Salah and Mane helped Liverpool to the Champions League, European Super Cup, and Club World Cup this year.

Mahrez, meanwhile, was part of the City team who successfully defended the Premier League title.

He was also a key part of the Algerian squad which triumphed in the African Cup of Nations.

The winner of the African Player of the Year award will be announced in Egypt on January 7.

AFP

Liverpool Survive Salzburg Test To Reach Champions League Last 16

Liverpool’s Guinean midfielder Naby Keita, Liverpool’s English midfielder Jordan Henderson and Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino react during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between RB Salzburg and Liverpool FC on December 10, 2019 in Salzburg, Austria.
KRUGFOTO / APA / AFP

 

Liverpool struck twice in two minutes through Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah to avoid an embarrassing early Champions League exit by winning 2-0 in Salzburg on Tuesday.

The European champions needed to avoid defeat against the Austrian champions to book their place in the last 16 and victory ensured they did so as winners of Group E ahead of Napoli.

Salah had been guilty of missing a host of big chances as Liverpool walked a tightrope for nearly an hour, but made amends with a sumptuous finish from a narrow angle after Keita’s header had settled the holders’ nerves.

Salzburg had scored 87 goals in 24 previous games this season, including three when Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller between the two back in October.

But Norwegian wonder kid Erling Braut Haaland was thwarted as the Reds recorded their first clean sheet in the Champions League this season.

READ ALSO: France Extend Deschamps’ Contract Until 2022

Liverpool needed goalkeeper Alisson Becker to be at his best early on as the Brazilian blocked from Takumi Minamino and Haaland.

However, the better chances were coming for the Premier League leaders at the other end.

Salah dragged his first big chance wide on his favoured left foot at the end of a brilliant Liverpool break from one end of the field to the other.

Keita had been rewarded for his goalscoring return to the team in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Bournemouth and seemed keen to make a mark against his former side.

But the Guinea midfielder failed to beat Cican Stankovic when played in by Salah’s slick reverse pass in first half stoppage time.

Salah was the culprit of more missed opportunities at the start of the second half when he fired over from Sadio Mane’s brilliant through ball and seconds later he was denied by Stankovic as he tried to round the goalkeeper.

Liverpool’s profligacy could have been punished when Haaland had his big chance to live up to the hype linking him with a host of Europe’s top clubs, but the 19-year-old hit the side-netting with just Alisson to beat.

Seconds later the visitors finally made the breakthrough when the two ex-Salzburg men in Mane and Keita combined.

Stankovic rashly rushed off his line as Mane sped onto Andy Robertson’s pass and his dinked cross was headed into an unguarded net by Keita.

A minute later, any hope left for Salzburg to spring an upset evaporated when Salah implausibly scored from the most difficult chance he had all evening.

The Egyptian seemed to have been forced too far wide on his right foot as Stankovic raced from his goal once again, but Salah somehow bent the ball with unerring accuracy into the far corner.

In each of the last two seasons Liverpool have also needed to get points in their final group game before going onto reach the final and no one will want to face Klopp’s men again come the knockout stages.

A first Premier League title in 30 years may be the priority on Merseyside with an eight-point lead over Leicester at the top of the table.

AFP

 

Salah Fires Liverpool To Comeback Win Over Spurs

 

Mohamed Salah ensured Liverpool survived a major scare with the winner in a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur that saw the Premier League leaders restore their six-point advantage over Manchester City.

The Egyptian smashed home a 75th-minute penalty, the 50th Anfield goal of his Liverpool career, as the Reds came back from going a goal down just seconds after kick off to maintain their unbeaten league record with their ninth win in 10 matches.

Salah’s decisive spot-kick was awarded after Serge Aurier allowed Sadio Mane to gain a goalside position on him before tripping him in the process of making a tackle.

It was a decision that angered the visitors but one that allowed Liverpool to complete a second-half comeback that was started when Jordan Henderson cancelled out a dramatic early opening goal from Harry Kane.

After recent question marks over Liverpool’s ability to maintain their majestic early-season form, this was an impressive win that came after Kane had put Spurs ahead just 47 seconds into the contest.

The 26-year-old’s header made him the joint-third highest scorer in Tottenham’s history with 174 goals.

It was also one of the simplest after Moussa Sissoko sparked a scrambling counter-attack and set Son Heung-min racing upfield.

– Kane shocks Anfield –

The South Korean’s powerful strike from the edge of the area took a wild deflection off the head of Dejan Lovren before hitting the left-hand post but the rebound fell kindly for Kane to stoop and head into the gaping net.

It was a lead that lasted until the 52nd minute, when a Henderson cross was headed clear and turned back into the area by Fabinho.

Danny Rose appeared to nudge Roberto Firmino in the back but, with referee Anthony Taylor unmoved, the ball continued to the corner of the six-yard area where Henderson hit it on the half-volley into the Spurs goal.

Minutes earlier, Spurs might have doubled their lead when Son was sent clear on the end of a long clearance by keeper Paulo Gazzaniga, rounded Alisson Becker but could only strike the cross-bar from a tricky angle.

But the equaliser was no more than Liverpool deserved after a dominant first-half spell in which only an inspired performance from stand-in goalkeeper Gazzaniga maintained the visitors’ lead.

In one breathless, four-minute spell, Liverpool carved out five excellent chances with Gazzaniga peerless in dealing with them.

The best of the Argentine’s masterclass saw him first save from Salah and then keep out a fierce follow-up blast from Firmino.

The keeper also did well to tip over a Virgil van Dijk header and parry Trent Alexander-Arnold’s powerful shot in a first half that ended in fractious fashion before Liverpool opened the second in a similarly dominant mood.

Before the equaliser Gazzaniga saved well once more, from Firmino’s close-range header, and afterwards the keeper somehow blocked a shot from the Brazilian by sitting on the ball on his goalline.

Having taken the lead, Liverpool weathered the concluding minutes in relative comfort although Alisson was forced to save well from Son and from an injury-time header from Toby Alderweireld.

Salah Sends Egypt Into Cup Of Nations Last 16

 

Mohamed Salah scored his first goal of the Africa Cup of Nations as hosts Egypt secured a place in the last 16 on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ahmed Elmohamady prodded Egypt ahead on 25 minutes after a wicked Salah cross and the Liverpool star slammed in a second shortly before half-time to spark frenzied celebrations at a packed Cairo International Stadium.

Record seven-time champions Egypt rode their luck at times as DR Congo twice struck the crossbar in the first half but the Group A leaders held firm to join Nigeria as the first teams through to the knockout phase.

Egypt overcame the distraction of Amr Warda being banished from the squad earlier in the day over mounting sexual harassment allegations. The claims surfaced earlier this week on social media platforms. Multiple women posted screenshots and testimonies of Warda’s alleged lewd comments.

Coach Javier Aguirre fielded the same side that defeated Zimbabwe 1-0, with centre-back Ahmed Hegazy sporting a mask after breaking his nose in the opening game of the tournament.

Salah was guilty of missing a hatful of chances in the curtain-raiser and this season’s Premier League joint top scorer again threatened inside five minutes here when an interception broke his way only for the Egyptian to skew wide under pressure.

After four days of small crowds, a capacity 75,000 crowd again turned out to cheer on the hosts in the capital, but they were nearly silenced when Marcel Tisserand slammed against the bar at a corner.

DR Congo came to Egypt as one of the most unpredictable qualifiers having finished third in 2015 only to make a timid quarter-final exit two years ago, and they fell behind for the second straight game as Elmohamady forced home after the ball fell kindly to him following an aerial challenge with Christian Luyindama.

Having created the opener with his vicious right-wing cross, Salah then stung the palms of Ley Matampi with a powerful 25-yard free-kick.

Egypt would be rescued by the woodwork once more though when a deep cross was nodded back across goal by Bokadi Bope before Jonathan Bolingi’s looping header bounced back off the bar.

With his side riding their luck, Salah rose to the occasion and settled Egyptian nerves two minutes before half-time with a typically brilliant finish.

Played into space down the right by Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan, Salah skipped inside Tisserand and ripped a crisp low drive inside Matampi’s near post to cue a volcanic eruption from the masses of delirious Egyptians supporters.

Mohamed El Shenawy produced an excellent sprawling second-half save to claw out a Jacques Maghoma header, but despite an improvement on a horror first outing, DR Congo now know they must beat Zimbabwe in their final game in order to possibly advance as one of the four best third-place finishers.

AFP

Fans Jubilant With Liverpool Win, Salah’s Goal

Liverpool supporters celebrate after Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah scored a goal as they watch the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in a bar in Madrid on June 1, 2019. / AFP

 

Football fans were overjoyed on Saturday as Liverpool were crowned European champions after winning 2-0 against their English counterparts Tottenham Hotspur.

Coming in as favourites, the Reds sealed the win and their sixth European Cup in a grinding game after Divock Origi fired home the team’s second goal in the 87th minute.

Those gathered erupted with joy in unison after Mohamed Salah converted a penalty to open the scoring as early as the second minute.

“I’m happy that Salah won because he’s our son” said Seif Hegi, 21, a university student from Cairo.

“The match was like a typical Premier League game, that was highly defensive…but it’s a huge feat because no other Egyptian footballer has achieved this before,” he told AFP surrounded by throngs of boisterous fans in a bustling cafe.

“This is a positive development for Egyptian soccer,” he added.

In a busy laneway in an upmarket suburb packed with cafes and cacophonous cries from ardent Liverpool fans, some 400 Egyptians cheered loudly with every touch of the ball for national icon Salah.

He is due to represent the North African heavyweights in the Africa Cup of Nations later this month.

The slow moving match with a few chances picked up momentum in the last 20 minutes with more attempts at goal for both teams.

One of the few Spurs supporters in the Reds-dominated crowd Antoine Philip, 25, who works in an insurance company, was critical of the referee’s performance.

“That penalty was not right in the first minute. He should have gone to the VAR. Liverpool were undeserving but it’s good progress for Tottenham to get this far,” he said.

– ‘You’ll never eat alone’ –
In anticipation of the final, other Egyptians paid tribute to the Reds feasting at the “Liverfuul” cart which serves up hot dishes of “fuul” (fava beans) in Ain Shams, a working-class suburb of Cairo.

READ ALSO: It Means So Much- Liverpools Klopp Reacts To Victory

Mohamed Ahmed, 31, a DJ turned street food entrepreneur, came up with the idea with friend Mohamed al-Sayed before the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of daytime fasting due to end next week.

The cart, which only operates between 11 pm and 3 am, is emblazoned with Sayed’s red and green design – after the Liverpool football club logo.

Liverpool’s legendary anthem has been amended on the cart to read: “You’ll never eat alone.”

“There’s no one who doesn’t love Salah. We’re avid football fans so the idea clicked one day while we were sitting around, and the response has been huge from the locals,” he told AFP.

“As Egyptians we like to get together, especially during Ramadan, and have a communal meal. So the tagline came naturally and Sayed designed it perfectly.”

Ahmed Adel, a 25-year-old engineer, spotted photos of the cart on Facebook in early May and has been a regular customer.

He is circled every time by dozens of hungry patrons in a carnival-like atmosphere of loud music and football commentary on flat screen televisions.

Named after Liverpool’s Swiss star, Shaqiri-sterma, a mix of eggs and pastrami, is his favourite. A dish named “Mo Salah” is also on the menu.

“The food is great and the atmosphere is friendly,” he said.

Ahmed, the food cart operator, said he was happy that his business had become a gathering point for the club’s fans in the capital Cairo.

“I’m a winner either way, it’s not just about money for me,” he said.

“The first week of business we were running at a loss, but with word of mouth and social media, it has really picked up,” Adel added.

He was proven right in Liverpool being crowned European champions against first-time finalists Spurs. It came 12 months after they suffered a heartbreaking loss to Real Madrid in last year’s final in which Salah went off injured.

African Trio Share Premier League Golden Boot

 

The race to be crowned the English Premier League’s leading scorer this season ended in a three-way tie on Sunday as the African trio of Sadio Mane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah shared the Golden Boot.

Gabon forward Aubameyang scored twice for Arsenal at Burnley to join Salah and his Liverpool teammate Mane, who netted a final-day double against Wolves, on 22 goals for the Premier League season.

Sergio Aguero, of champions Manchester City, was next in line with 21 goals.

Salah has now won the award two seasons in a row but this term’s winning tally was the lowest by players in English football’s top-flight since 2010/11 when Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez shared the Golden Boot with 20 goals apiece.

Aubameyang was delighted to be a member of an all-African trio of winners, saying in quotes reported by the BBC: “I share this trophy with two other guys I like, great players and African. We are representing Africa, that’s cool.

READ ALSO: Liverpool Chase Euro Dreams After Losing League Title To City

“I am happy we won, and I am sharing this trophy with two other guys I like.

“My teammates knew about the Golden Boot, I said nothing. I did not want them to play and only focus on me. I am a team player.”

For Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp there was the satisfaction of knowing he had a played a part in the careers of all three of this season’s Golden Boot winners, having signed Aubameyang from Saint-Etienne in 2013 when he was in charge of Dortmund.

“Auba too? Do they have three boots?” said Klopp, who suffered the last-day heartache of seeing Liverpool finish just one point behind City.

“It is good. They are all my players,” the German added.

Salah scored 32 league goals last season, a record for a 38-game Premier League campaign.

The 26-year-old is the sixth player to win the Golden Boot award in consecutive seasons.

AFP

Liverpool Survive Fulham Scare To Go Top Of Premier League

Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (L) vies with Fulham’s English defender Joe Bryan during the English Premier League football match between Fulham and Liverpool at Craven Cottage in London on March 17, 2019. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Liverpool usurped Manchester City to take a top spot in the Premier League but needed a James Milner penalty nine minutes from time to see off lowly Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage on Sunday.

The on-form Sadio Mane put the visitors in front midway through the first half, but a rare defensive mix-up between Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker allowed Ryan Babel to give his former club a huge scare 16 minutes from time.

Fulham’s awful defending all season is the reason they are heading back to the Championship after just one season back in the top flight, and the hosts gave Jurgen Klopp’s men a much-needed gift when goalkeeper Sergio Rico bundled over Mane and Milner secured all three points from the spot.

Liverpool now hold a two-point lead over City, but the champions have a game in hand.

READ ALSO: Wolves Beat Man United To Reach FA Cup Semis

“Average game, sensational result,” said Klopp of his side’s performance.

“City don’t look like they will drop a lot of points, so we have to win and win and win. That’s our job to do.”

Liverpool completed a clean sweep of four English sides into the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a highly impressive 3-1 win at Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

But they nearly suffered a very costly European hangover against a Fulham side still 13 points adrift of safety.

“We had to run a lot in a week where we ran a lot,” added Klopp to justify an at times lackluster display at such a pivotal stage of the season.

Most of the visitors’ attacking threat came down their left side through Mane and the Senegalese proved the source of the breakthrough on 26 minutes.

Mane scored twice in Munich in midweek and took his hot streak to 11 goals in 11 games with a simple finish after exchanging passes with Roberto Firmino.

 No excuses 

Liverpool started the second half with greater intent to try and put the game to bed.

Andy Robertson was the provider as Georginio Wijnaldum headed a good opportunity over at the far post before Rico was called into action to deny Van Dijk.

However, as a torrential rain shower swept over the banks of the Thames to make playing conditions hazardous, Liverpool’s slender lead proved a dangerous one.

Floyd Ayite was rightly flagged offside as he headed a deflected shot past Alisson before the Brazilian number one got down well to save from Andre Zambo Anguissa.

Mane was inches away from securing the points and doubling his tally for the day with a deft header from a corner that clipped the top of the crossbar.

Disaster seemed to have struck for Liverpool when Van Dijk’s header back towards Alisson didn’t have enough purchase and Babel stepped in with the break of the ball to tap into an empty net.

“I am not giving excuses. I should have handled it better,” admitted Van Dijk.

However, the league leaders showed why they are in the running to end a 29-year title drought to get a vital three points with the help of some erratic goalkeeping from Rico.

“I saw the reaction of my players and I’m really pleased with that,” added Klopp. “After the equaliser we were much clearer than before the equaliser.”

Mohamed Salah’s goal drought continued as the Egyptian has scored just once now in his last 10 games, but it was his shot that Rico spilled before the Spaniard unnecessarily pulled down Mane.

Milner took responsibility instead of Salah from the penalty spot and calmly sent Rico the wrong way to restore Liverpool’s lead, which this time they never looked like letting go.

AFP

Salah Outshines Other African Players As Leading Scorer In Europe

Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Liverpool in southern England on January 12, 2019. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Mohamed Salah became the leading English Premier League scorer this season after netting twice for Liverpool in a dramatic 4-3 triumph over Crystal Palace at the weekend.   

The Egyptian superstar has notched 16 goals, two more than Gabonese Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and England sharpshooter Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur.

It was a profitable day for African attackers at Anfield with Senegalese Sadio Mane also scoring for league leaders Liverpool.

England

MOHAMED SALAH, SADIO MANE (Liverpool)

Salah raised his season tally to 19 in all competitions by scoring twice to keep Liverpool four points clear at the top by defeating Palace. The Egyptian had fortune on his side thanks to some errant goalkeeping by 39-year Julian Speroni, making his first appearance in over a year, and was also lucky to escape without a yellow card when trying to win a cheap penalty just before half-time. Mane grabbed his 10th of the season with a smart finish in stoppage time.

Spain

SEYDOU DOUMBIA (Girona)

The Ivorian scored but could not prevent Girona losing a five-goal thriller to Real Betis in La Liga. Doumbia stooped low to head in after an error from goalkeeper Pau Lopez as Girona pulled 2-1 ahead, only for Betis to score twice in the second half.

KARL TOKO EKAMBI (Villarreal)

Toko Ekambi earned Villarreal a point by grabbing a late equaliser in their 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao. The Cameroonian slid in to score from close range with 19 minutes left to ensure his side avoided defeat in their fight against relegation.

Italy

GERVINHO (Parma)

Gervinho earned a penalty and scored the winner for Parma in a 2-1 victory over Udinese. Parma were awarded a VAR penalty for a Rodrigo De Paul foul on Gervinho which Roberto Inglese converted after 11 minutes. The veteran Ivorian scored the winner after 68 minutes, surging forward for the midfield to slot in his sixth goal of the season for promoted Parma, who are three points off the Europa League berths.

Germany

SALIF SANE (Schalke 04)

The Senegal centre-back put in a solid display in Schalke’s 2-1 win at home to Wolfsburg which pulled them clear of the Bundesliga relegation places with their Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester City looming next month. Sane was unable to stop Wolfsburg midfielder Elvis Rexhbecaj equalising midway through the first half before Schalke defender Daniel Caligiuri scored the late winner with his second goal of the game.

France

JORDAN IKOKO (Guingamp)

The Democratic Republic of Congo defender endured a day to forget as his side crashed to an embarrassing 9-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain. Ikoko and his Guingamp team-mates were ripped apart by the runaway league leaders as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani accounted for all but one of the goals as PSG set a new club record for the biggest home win.

Salah Fires Liverpool Seven Points Clear, United Extend Winning Run

Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (L) celebrates after scoring their first goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north-west England on January 19, 2019. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool moved seven points clear at the top of the Premier League as Mohamed Salah’s double inspired a dramatic 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace, while Manchester United stretched their winning streak to seven games as they beat Brighton 2-1 on Saturday.

With second-placed Manchester City travelling to the bottom of the table Huddersfield on Sunday, Liverpool seized the chance to tighten their grip on the title race.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were pushed hard by Palace but Salah’s predatory instincts and a woeful mistake from Eagles keeper Julian Speroni ensured Liverpool improved their unbeaten home league run to 32 games.

Liverpool’s haul of 60 points from 23 games tops the Reds’ previous best tally of 59, set at the same stage of the 1893-94 and 1987-88 campaigns.

Palace, the last team to beat Liverpool in a Premier League game at Anfield, in April 2017, took a shock 34th-minute lead.

Wilfried Zaha picked out Andros Townsend, who drilled a crisp finish past Alisson Becker.

Salah had been accused of diving by Palace players after a failed attempt to win a first-half penalty.

But he exacted his revenge with an equaliser 60 seconds after the interval, Egypt forward slotting in his 18th goal of the season after Virgil van Dijk’s shot deflected into his path.

Liverpool went ahead in the 53rd minute when Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino, surrounded by defenders, still managed to unload a shot that deflected in off Palace’s Cheikhou Kouyate.

James Tomkins out-jumped Fabinho to head Palace level in the 65th minute, yet Liverpool were gifted the crucial third 10 minutes later thanks to a howler from Speroni — at 39 the Premier League’s oldest player and making his first appearance since December 2017

James Milner’s cross prompted a nervous flap from Speroni, who tipped the ball high over his own head and Salah was on hand to convert on the line.

Milner was sent off in the 89th minute for a second booking, but Liverpool made in four in stoppage-time through Sadio Mane before Max Meyer capped a frantic finale with Palace’s third.

Child’s play for Pogba 

At Old Trafford, Manchester United extended their superb form since interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho.

After a minute’s applause to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of United’s legendary manager Matt Busby, Solskjaer’s side took the lead in the 27th minute.

Gaetan Bong conceded a penalty with a foul on Paul Pogba and the France midfielder stroked home the spot-kick for his 10th goal of the season.

Pogba’s ‘rocking the baby’ celebration was to mark him becoming a father for the first time, with his girlfriend Maria Salaues believed to have given birth this week.

United winger Marcus Rashford marked his 150th game for the club with his side’s second goal in the 42nd minute.

Rashford sent a superb finish into the far corner from a tight angle for his fourth goal in his last five games.

Pascal Gross reduced the deficit in the 72nd minute, but United weren’t to be denied as they moved within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea, who face Arsenal later on Saturday.

Newcastle climbed out of the relegation zone with a 3-0 win over Cardiff at St James’ Park that saw their opponents drop into the bottom three.

Fabian Schar put Newcastle ahead with a fine solo effort in the 24th minute.

Schar netted again in the 63rd minute and Ayoze Perez struck in stoppage-time to give Newcastle their first win in six league games.

Southampton boosted their bid to avoid relegation with a 2-1 victory against Everton at St Mary’s.

James Ward-Prowse scored in the 50th minute for Saints, who went further ahead through a bizarre Lucas Digne own goal in the 64th minute, the defender blocking the ball into the net from 20 yards out.

Gylfi Sigurdsson got one back for Everton in stoppage-time.

Diogo Jota’s hat-trick piled pressure on Leicester manager Claude Puel as the Wolves midfielder’s last-gasp strike secured a thrilling 4-3 win.

Bournemouth beat West Ham 2-0 with goals from Callum Wilson and Josh King, while Watford drew 0-0 against Burnley.

AFP

Salah Enters Emery’s Top 5 After PSG Snub

Salah 'Almost 100%' Certain To Play In Egypt Opener, Coach Says
Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah gestures as he takes part in a training session at Ekaterinburg Stadium in Ekaterinburg. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Arsenal manager Unai Emery believes Mohamed Salah is now among the world’s top five players, despite failing to sign him when he was in charge of Paris Saint-Germain.

The Gunners boss will be in opposition to the Liverpool forward when his Arsenal side faces the unbeaten Premier League leaders at Anfield on Saturday.

Egypt international Salah, 26, has scored 59 goals in 78 matches since arriving at Anfield from Italian club Roma before the start of the 2017/18 season.

Emery was coach of Ligue 1 champions PSG at the time and on Friday he admitted to being uncertain as to how Salah would cope with the pressure of playing for a major club.

“We spoke about the possibility to sign Salah to Paris St Germain when he was playing at Roma,” Emery said.

“We had some doubts — and then he signed for Liverpool and these doubts he has broken at Liverpool. Now, if you are speaking about the five top players in the world, one is Salah.”

Emery, asked about the nature of his reservations regarding Salah, added: “Can he take the performance into one big team?

“For example like PSG in Paris. And today I can say to you…if we signed him, we signed one player in the top five in the world.”

Emery said the signings of Salah and centre-back Virgil van Dijk had been central to Liverpool’s progress under Jurgen Klopp.

“I remember three years ago they had a problem in their defensive moments and bought some people — for example van Dijk — with good investment and the result is we are looking at them today and their progress,” he said.

“They are very strong in defence and also they are improving a lot when they bought Salah and now offensively they are a very big team.”

The Spaniard added: “I think the Premier League is now the best and most important competition in the world for the teams, with Spain, maybe Italy and Germany.

“But I think here are the best teams and players and now the leader in the table is Liverpool — and it is because they are doing things very well.”

AFP

Salah, Van Dijk Seal Christmas Top Spot For Liverpool

Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino (C) celebrates after scoring their second goal with Liverpool’s English defender Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) and Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium in London, on September 15, 2018. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Liverpool passed another stringent test of their Premier League title credentials as Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk gave them a 2-0 victory at Wolverhampton on Friday that guarantees a top spot at Christmas.

Salah’s 11th goal of the season was a classy one and helped subdue a dangerous Wolves side who had made a lively start.

The home side continued to push Jurgen Klopp’s side hard but their resistance was finally broken with 22 minutes remaining as Van Dijk capped a superb performance with a goal that cemented his side’s position at the top of the table with 48 points.

Manager Jurgen Klopp said: “The first goal was brilliant, it was cool. And the second goal – yes, well done. I’m completely happy with the result and it is big for us.

“We will be training on Christmas morning so it is like every other day. It is an outstanding number (of points), it is absolutely cool.”

While Liverpool have struggled at times to match the attacking potency of Manchester City, who they face on January 3, their added defensive steel has made them serious contenders for their first title of the Premier League era.

In the first half at a wet, windy Molineux they showed signs that some of the swagger that marked them out as the league’s great entertainers last season is returning.

Salah linked up impressively with Sadio Mane and Robert Firmino in attack and Klopp’s side might have added to their tally earlier than they did.

Then, when Wolves managed to blunt Liverpool’s attacking threat, their defence clicked into gear to silence a dangerous frontline with Van Dijk in outstanding form at the heart of Klopp’s back four.

Klopp’s men endured a nervous opening when, in the fourth minute, Fabinho’s lapse in concentration saw his pass intercepted by Joao Moutinho. Moutinho fed Adama Traore but he curled a shot narrowly wide.

Traore threatened again moments later when he was supplied by the solid link-up play of Raul Jimenez before again shooting just off target.

Early chances were scarce for the visitors and when one arrived, with James Milner’s corner dropping kindly for Van Dijk, the Dutchman’s shot was charged down by Matt Doherty.

A fine move from Wolves almost brought the opening goal when Conor Coady’s superb pass and Doherty’s neat touch release Romain Saiss, whose shot was well saved by Alisson after it had taken a deflection off Dejan Lovren.

Liverpool had been on the back foot but there was no denying the quality of their opening goal, scored by Salah on 18 minutes.

Fabinho was the architect with a driving run and a neat one-two with Sadio Mane before he crossed for Salah to prod home deftly with the outside of his left foot.

The Reds pushed for a second and Rui Patricio saved well from James Milner but there were chances for Wolves, too, with Alisson forced to save from Jonny Castro Otto.

Wolves’ pressing was making life hard for Klopp’s side, but they doubled their lead and effectively sealed their win with 22 minutes remaining.

A corner was cleared as far as Salah, who delivered a teasing cross from which Van Dijk stretched to turn the ball home.

Morgan Gibbs-White should have halved Liverpool’s lead late on but the Wolves youngster fired into the side netting.

AFP

Salah Retains BBC African Footballer Of The Year Award

Liverpool and Egypt striker Mohamed Salah has capped a sparkling 2018 for club and country by winning the prestigious BBC African Footballer of the Year Award for the second time in a row.

“It’s a great feeling to win again. I’m happy and I would like to win it also next year!” said Salah.

The 26-year-old, who beat Medhi Benatia, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sadio Mane and Thomas Partey to the award, is just the second player after Jay-Jay Okocha to win it two years running.

Yaya Toure is the only other player to have twice won the award in its current form while Nwankwo Kanu won it twice when it was a broader African Sports Personality award.

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Salah scored 44 goals in 52 games for Liverpool last season, his first on Merseyside after joining them from Roma, and helped them to reach the Champions League final.

His club form has continued this season with his winner against Napoli on Tuesday that saw the Reds into the Champions League last 16 taking his tally to 13.

“There have been many good moments in 2018,” he added.

“I’m scoring goals and helping the team to get the points to be top of the league. That’s always a great feeling.”

Salah also scored twice for Egypt at the World Cup in Russia.

Earlier in 2018, Salah won the English double — the Players’ Player of the Year and the Football Writers’ Player of the Year.

Salah also won the 2017 CAF Player of the Year and is one of 10 nominees for the 2018 award which will be announced in January.