So many sports happenings, so little time – but we’re here to help. Yahoo News Singapore picks the top sporting moments of this past week, and tries to make sense of what had happened.
1. Top teams hitting their stride in the EPL
Swagger. That’s what happens when footballers are so confident in their abilities that it almost seems as if they are dismissively brushing aside their hapless opponents. And for Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City fans, they saw their teams in fine fettle during dominant victories over the weekend, which featured breathtaking performances from the three English Premier League (EPL) clubs.
Man United are riding high on an 11-match unbeaten run after they parted ways with unpopular manager Jose Mourinho. Caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a former fan favourite, has revitalised the Red Devils in reverting to their traditional swashbuckling playing style. This has unshackled the abundant talents of their players, especially Frenchmen Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial.
Against struggling Fulham on Saturday (9 February), Martial scored a stupendous individual goal that showed just how much swagger is evident in Man United’s recent uptick in form. Taking the ball from inside his own half, the French forward impudently brushed aside his defenders amid a galloping solo run before scoring United’s second goal in their 3-0 win.
This goal from Martial was fantastic 👌👌👌👌#Mufc
— Totally Man Utd™ (@TotallyMUFC) February 9, 2019
Meanwhile, Liverpool have lost just once all season, and are battling with Manchester City for the EPL title. After two consecutive draws which saw the Reds cede top spot to City last Wednesday, they were eager to return to the top of the table with a win over Bournemouth on Saturday.
And they did so in a dominant 3-0 win that featured a brilliantly-worked goal for Mohamed Salah. Sadio Mane’s energy, Naby Keita’s vision and Roberto Firmino’s extraordinary moment of creativity contributed to carve open the Bournemouth defence with almost arrogant swagger before Salah calmly tucked away his 17th league goal of the season:
But the defending EPL champions have the final say over the weekend. Man City were virtually unstoppable as they steamrolled over a slumping Chelsea 6-0 on Sunday to take over the top spot again.
No doubt, to put six goals past a legitimate title challenger takes a good deal of swagger, and City are putting an outstanding case for being the best team in Europe with their stylish brand of attacking football. Striker Sergio Aguero is the pick of the players with a superb hat-trick, his second in the past three matches and 11th in his illustrious Premier League career.
2. Unreal feats from Mohamed Salah, Lionel Messi
This cannot be real…Can it?
Two incredible pieces of skills by two of finest finishers – Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi – went viral on Twitter last week. Purportedly, the separate videos were taken behind the scenes of a Pepsi advertisement shoot which both football stars were taking part in.
First, Salah did this jaw-dropping example of accurate placement:
Not to be outdone, another video soon surfaced where GOAT (Greatest of all time) candidate Messi blew everybody’s mind with this effort:
Normally we'd be calling this fake, but then again, it's Messi 🐐
(via leomessi/Instagram) pic.twitter.com/wpvhYsqy4l
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 8, 2019
If it was any other footballer, there would be no question that there was definitely some computer trickery involved. (How can the bottle even be balanced on a football?) But since it is Messi – who has performed some outrageous ball skills before – one can never be sure.
3. Lakers vs Celtics rivalry takes new twist
No other rivalry has shaped the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA) like the one between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. These are the two teams with the most NBA titles among them (17 for Celtics, 16 for Lakers), and have faced each other 12 times in the NBA Finals – once in the 1950s, six times in the 1960s, three times in the 1980s and twice more in 2008 and 2010.
Being from different conferences, the two teams meet only twice in every regular season, but those games are always hard fought and intense. Neither teams are regarded as title contenders this season, but both are positioning themselves as prime destinations for top players to consider during the post-season free agency.
So when the two sides met on Friday, the subtext was their pursuit of New Orleans Pelicans’ star centre Anthony Davis, who has recently sounded out his desire to be traded to another club. Getting Davis would immediately vault the Lakers or the Celtics into title contention, and they have been busy trying to outdo each other to convince Davis to sign for them.
The game, inevitably, came down to the final shot, with the Celtics taking a 128-127 lead with a lay-up by Kyrie Irving. Enter the Lakers’ backup point guard Rajon Rondo, a former Celtic who helped them win the 2008 title:
A memorable buzzer beater, given the context of their current rivalry. The Lakers have bragging rights on their rivals’ home court, but the Celtics may ultimately be the team that land Davis.
4. England show World Cup credentials at Six Nations
The annual Six Nations rugby union tournament pits the best European national teams – Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, France and Italy – against one another for supremacy. The tournament takes on added significance in terms of the sides’ form and preparation as the Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan later this year. Win the Six Nations, and you will be among the favourites for the World Cup together with the likes of New Zealand and South Africa.
These contests are often ferocious and hard-fought, and this year was no different. Yet, England seemed to be finding form at the right moment, with two exceptional wins against fancied opponents to open their Six Nations campaign.
On 2 February, England went to Dublin and stunned the defending Six Nations champions Ireland with a 32-20 victory in which they scored four tries against a much vaunted Irish defence. Then on Sunday, they faced a French side who have rebuilt recently into an attractive offensive side.
This time England showed their fierce defensive efforts which, coupled with their considerable firepower, led them to a rampant 44-8 victory with left-wing Jonny May plundering a hat-trick of tries.
Fly-half and captain Owen Farrell added 17 points, including England’s sixth and final try, to spearhead a thrilling performance that showed that they could be defending world champions New Zealand’s biggest challengers come the World Cup in September.