SINGAPORE — Football continues to be the most searched sports topic in Yahoo News Singapore, even though there were no major international tournaments in 2019.
Of the top 10 most searched sports terms over the past year, six were related to football – and they were not restricted to just the usual suspects of the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League.
Besides the football searches, users also looked for tennis, Formula One and basketball news. And of course, the biggest international sports event of the year also found its way into the top 10.
Here are the top sports searches on Yahoo News Singapore in 2019:
This has not been a stellar year for Barcelona by their lofty standards. The Spanish giants won just the La Liga title, and were remembered more for dramatically succumbing to Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals despite holding a 3-0 first-leg advantage.
However, any team with Lionel Messi in their line-up are bound to be well-supported. The mercurial Argentinian recently won his sixth Ballon d’Or World Player of the Year title, and provides jaw-dropping highlights on a regular basis even at the age of 32. Barcelona are fortunate to have this football genius for the entire of his career.
9. Rugby World Cup 2019
Undoubtedly this year’s major international sports event, the Rugby World Cup was held for the first time in Asia, and hosts Japan ratcheted up the excitement with a swashbuckling run into the quarter-finals. It was the first time an Asian country has ever advanced out of the opening pool stage, and their outstanding victories over traditional rugby nations Ireland and Scotland drew viewers into the tournament.
That said, it was a World Cup that had threatened to unravel when Typhoon Hagibis landed in Japan just as the pool matches reached the crucial stages. While two pool matches were cancelled, the tournament emerged largely unscathed and the festivities subsequently continued, with South Africa clinching their third World Cup title with a dominant 32-12 win over England.
8. French Open 2019
By now, it has almost become a ritual in the last decade: the top tennis players would gather in Paris for the French Open in May, slug it out over the clay courts of Roland Garros, and in the end, Rafael Nadal would be lying prone on the red dirt, screaming in joy at winning another men’s singles title.
The Spaniard’s extraordinary dominance cannot be overstated: Only in 2015 had he not won the French Open this past decade. In total, he has a barely-believable 12 titles at Roland Garros, one of the toughest tennis arenas in the world; the next best men’s tennis player in the Open era was Sweden’s Bjorn Borg, who won just six in the 1970s.
At the 2019 tournament, Nadal remained virtually unstoppable, dispatching long-time rival Roger Federer in three straight sets in the semi-finals, before easing past Dominic Thiem in four sets in the final. In the women’s singles, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty clinched her first Grand Slam title by easily defeating Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova in the final.
7. AFC Champions League
The premier club football competition in Asia, the AFC Champions League has grown in stature since it started as the Asian Club Championship in 1967, with top Asian clubs battling for the prestigious title amid large crowds at the two-legged finals.
This year saw irrevocable proof that Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal are the most successful club in the history of the competition. Their 3-0 aggregate win over Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds gave them their third Champions League title, after previous triumphs in 1991 and 2000. Coupled with four runners-up finishes (1986, 1987, 2014 and 2017), Al-Hilal have the edge over South Korea’s Pohang Steelers, who also have three titles but no runners-up finishes.
6. Manchester United
They remain one of the best supported clubs around the world, but this has not been a banner year for Manchester United. In fact, for most of 2019, it has been a struggle for the Red Devils to recapture their glory years under manager Alex Ferguson from the 1990s to the early 2010s.
After sacking Jose Mourinho in December 2018, they enjoyed a return to form in the early months of the year under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, winning 14 of his first 19 matches in charge.
However, as soon as the former Man United star striker was awarded a permanent contract, the wheels came off – of the 31 competitive matches since, Solskjaer saw only 10 wins. Fans are growing frustrated at the Norwegian as well as his underperforming players, but he retains the support of the club’s directors. Can he turn the club’s fortunes around in the new year?
5. Liverpool FC
In stark contrast to their arch-rivals Manchester United, Liverpool are enjoying a stellar 2019 that peaked in June, when they clinched their sixth European Cup title in Madrid, to the delirious delight of their sizeable fan base.
With Jurgen Klopp at the helm, the Merseyside club have lost just once in the English Premier League (EPL) this entire year, and after missing out on the 2018/19 title by one point, the Reds have bolted out from the 2019/20 EPL season with 16 wins from 17 matches. No doubt, their legions of fans are hoping they could finally end their 30-year league title drought next May.
4. F1 Singapore Grand Prix 2019
The 12th edition of the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix was held at the Marina Bay circuit over a September weekend, and more than 268,000 spectators turned up to watch the top race drivers in the world trying to out-race one another in the night race.
Although defending champion Lewis Hamilton was the favourite, a bungled race strategy by his Mercedes team allowed Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel to outwit the British star after the first pit stop, and the German duly raced to his fifth Singapore GP title of his career.
Fans also enjoyed some great music acts amid the three-day race weekend, with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, Fatboy Slim and Swedish House Mafia entertaining the race-goers.
3. UEFA Champions League
Europe’s top club football competition, the UEFA Champions League saw some outstanding ties in the knockout stages this year. In the round-of-16 stage, Dutch side Ajax Amsterdam stunned defending champions Real Madrid, overcoming a 1-2 first-leg deficit to beat the Spanish giants 4-1 at home for a 5-3 aggregate win.
Ajax – who last won in 1995 – continued their brilliant run by beating Italian champions Juventus 3-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals. In the semi-finals they faced Tottenham Hotspur, who had held on to oust English champions Manchester City via away-goals advantage in the previous round. And it was Spurs who broke Ajax’s hearts when a stoppage-time goal by Lucas Moura gave them another away-goals advantage to send them through to their first-ever Champions League final.
There they met five-time champions Liverpool, who had a brilliant comeback of their own in the semi-finals, when they overcame mighty Barcelona 4-0 in their home second leg after losing their first leg 0-3. The final in Madrid was a cagey affair, but Liverpool managed to emerge 2-0 winners for their sixth title.
The 2018/19 National Basketball Association (NBA) season was notable for unexpected developments that no one saw coming when the season started in October 2018.
LeBron James, undoubtedly the league’s transcendental superstar, suffered a groin injury in January that ruled him out for 17 games. When he returned, his new team Los Angeles Lakers had fallen of play-off contention, and he subsequently missed out on the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
The NBA Finals in June saw defending champions Golden State Warriors facing first-time finalists Toronto Raptors. Mismatch, right? Wrong, as the Warriors found themselves in a 1-2 deficit with key starters Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson out with injury.
What happened next was sheer brutal luck for the Warriors. Durant returned in Game Five, but suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon that ruled him out of the Finals – and subsequently the entire 2019/20 NBA season. Then in the must-win Game Six, Thompson returned – and suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the third quarter.
The double injuries knocked the stuffing out of the Warriors, but full credit to the Raptors for holding their collective nerve to emerge first-time NBA champions and beating the previously dominant Warriors 4-2 in the best-of-seven Finals.
1. Premier League
No surprises as to which is the most-searched sports term in 2019, as watching live English Premier League (EPL) matches has become a popular weekend activity for a large swathe of Southeast Asian sports fans.
Even though the EPL has taken advantage by raising its broadcasting-rights fees – meaning fans are paying ever-escalating subscription fees to gain access to the live matches – there seems no signs of waning popularity, with well-supported clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal regularly dominating sports news in the past year.
The eventual 2018/19 champions, Manchester City, dominated on the pitch with two seasons of sustained excellence. They just managed to fend off a spirited title challenge by Liverpool, pipping the Reds by a single point. The tight title race earned plaudits for showcasing arguably the best two football teams in the world, and their fierce rivalry is set to enthral fans in the coming EPL seasons.
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