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Vote for your AFC International Player of the Week

Kuala Lumpur: They’re the Asian stars who carry the hopes of the continent on the global stage, and it’s time to decide which one was this week’s outstanding performer.

From a week of goals, assists and match-winning performances, we’ve whittled the field down to eight nominees, now it’s up to Asia’s football fans to choose a winner.

Iraq’s Justin Meram – who won our inaugural weekly title with 68 per cent of the vote – is again nominated, as are four-goal Tottenham hero Son Heung-min and Charleroi’s outstanding Iranian duo, but which Asian star deserves this week’s award?

Here are our contenders for September 15 to 21:

See also :

Justin Meram (Real Salt Lake, Iraq)

90 minutes, 1 goal, 13 duels won (1-2 v Vancouver Whitecaps)

What better place to start this week’s list than with last week’s winner, who continued his stellar form with another goal, this time against a Vancouver Whitecaps side featuring fellow Iraq international Ali Adnan.

Meram’s brave 82nd-minute header pulled back an unlikely equaliser for the 10-man Real Salt Lake, who went on to suffer defeat anyway thanks to Lucas Cavallini’s winner, scored just two minutes later.

Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur, Korea Republic)

90 minutes, 4 goals, 4 shots at goal (5-2 v Southampton)

All eight players on our list are worthy nominees, but it will be a significant challenge for any of them to beat Son, after his sensational four-goal performance during Saturday’s 5-2 Premier League win over Southampton.

With Harry Kane playing a superb supporting role, the reigning AFC International Player of the Year was simply lethal in the final third, finding the back of the net with all four of his attempts on goal, and becoming the first Korean player to score four in a Premier League match.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Brighton and Hove Albion, IR Iran)

70 minutes, 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 recoveries in opp. half (4-0 v Portsmouth)

Jahanbakhsh has received limited game time in the early stages of Brighton’s 2020-21 campaign, but he made the most of a rare start on Thursday, picking up Player of the Match honours in a convincing 4-0 League Cup win over Portsmouth.

The Iranian star laid on a superb assist for Alexis Mac Allister late on in the first half, before hammering home a 20-yard drive to cap an outstanding performance early in the second half.

Oston Urunov (Spartak Moscow, Uzbekistan)

90 minutes, 1 goal, 91 passes completed, 92% pass accuracy (5-1 v Rodina)

19 minutes (2-0 v Rubin Kazan)

Urunov’s remarkable 2020 continued as the 19-year-old scored his first goal for Spartak in a 5-1 Russian Cup thumping of fellow Moscow outfit Rodina.

Beyond Urunov’s goal – a superb strike from outside the penalty area – the Uzbek teenager was seemingly everywhere as part of a complete midfield performance, which included an excellent 87% success rate for passes into the final third.

Kaveh Rezaei (Charleroi, IR Iran)

90 minutes, 2 goals, 80% passing accuracy (3-1 v K Beerschot VA)

Another week, another standout performance from one of Asia’s in-form strikers, with Rezaei finding the back of the net not once, but twice in Charleroi’s sixth successive league win.

The former Esteghlal man put Charleroi ahead with a deft first-half strike, before powering home a late penalty kick to put the result beyond doubt, and take his personal tally to five goals from five outings.

Ali Gholizadeh (Charleroi, IR Iran)

89 minutes, 1 goal, 4 progressive runs (3-1 v K Beerschot VA)

Also contributing to Charleroi’s stunning early season has been Rezaei’s countryman Ali Gholizadeh, who continued an excellent start to the campaign with the other goal in the club’s 3-1 win over Beerschot.

Gholizadeh’s strike – thumped into the roof of the net from close range – made it 2-0 on the night, and added to the three assists accumulated by the 24-year-old winner in his previous four matches.

Nikita Rukavytsya (Maccabi Haifa, Australia)

86 minutes, 1 goal, 1 assist (2-1 v FC Kairat)

The 33-year-old Australian striker’s purple patch continued as he scored the winning goal in Maccabi Haifa’s crucial UEFA Europa League qualifying clash with FC Kairat of Kazakhstan on Thursday.

Having set up Maccabi’s first goal earlier in the match, the former Socceroo slammed home the winner in the 71st minute, taking his tally to seven goals in his last five matches, and setting up a clash with Eldor Shomurodov’s FC Rostov in the next round.

Hiroki Sakai (Olympique Marseille, Japan)

90 minutes, 17 duels won, 91% forward pass accuracy (1-1 v Lille)

81 minutes, 87% passing accuracy (0-2 v Saint-Etienne)

Another returning nominee, Sakai continued his strong run of form, even as his Marseille side failed to win either of their Ligue 1 matches over the last week.

The Japanese full-back was particularly effective during Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Lille, winning 85% of defensive duels, barely missing a step in possession, and completing six passes into the final third.

Poll ends at 16:00 (UTC +8) on September 26.

Photos: AFP

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