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Friday, September 22, 2023

Son Heung-min becomes 1st Asian to score 100 goals in Premier League

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EPL 통산 100골 중 60골을 후반전에 터뜨린 손흥민. 뒷심이 강해 체력이 한계에 달하는 시점에 오히려 펄펄 날았다. [사진 BBC스포츠 SNS]
Son Heung-min became the first Asian footballer ever to score 100 Premier League goals on Saturday as Tottenham beat Brighton 2-1 in a fiery clash at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

Son did not waste any time securing his Premier League century, smashing home a stunning strike in the 10th minute to give Spurs an early lead.

Brighton equalized in the 34th minute, only for Harry Kane to send Spurs up again 10 minutes before the final whistle.

Son’s goal took him to 100 all-time league goals, the first Asian player to reach the milestone and by a significant distance — Park Ji-sung is the second-highest Asian goal scorer ever and he only found the back of the net 19 times.

Son is the 34th player ever to score 100 goals during the Premier League era, and now sits alongside former Southampton star Matt Le Tissier and three goals behind Cristiano Ronaldo on the all-time Premier League top scorer table.

“I was really emotional because I have had tough moments in the last few weeks,” Son said after the game, dedicating the goal to his late grandfather. “I’m the most frustrated player, but I see where I can improve.”

Saturday’s goal was only Son’s seventh this season, a significant step down from his Golden Boot-worthy 23 last season. The orbital fracture he sustained last year is partly to blame for that drop off in performance, although Son was visibly struggling to find his feet even before the injury.

But even Son’s century was not the biggest story coming out of Saturday’s game, with the touchline clash between Tottenham caretaker manager Cristian Stellini and Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi overshadowing much of what happened on the pitch.

Tensions were running high between the two Italian managers even before the game started, with De Zerbi appearing to confront Stellini on the touchline before the game — presumably over the Spurs’ manager’s comment earlier in the week that De Zerbi was aggressive when they had faced off as players.

The confrontation appeared to make little sense, especially considering that the rest of Stellini’s pre-match interview had been very positive about De Zerbi and what he had managed since arriving at Brighton.

The tension continued throughout the game, eventually descending into an all-out brawl between the two technical areas in the second half.

Referee Stuart Atwell chose to show both managers a red card, a decision that was met with some confusion both on the pitch and by the commentators as Stellini was clearly visible standing a few meters away from where the confrontation was taking place with his focus seemingly entirely on the game.

Under International Football Association Board rules — “where an offense is committed and the offender cannot be identified, the senior team coach present in the technical area will receive the sanction” — Stellini is ultimately responsible for the behavior of anybody on his bench, leaving Atwell with a valid reason for the card.

Tottenham will still likely challenge the decision. If the challenge fails, Stellini will have to watch next Saturday’s home match against Bournemouth from the stands.

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]