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FOOTBALL

Hertha Berlin beat Leverkusen to stay top of the Bundesliga

Hot-shot striker Andrei Voronin scored his eighth goal in six games to keep Hertha Berlin four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday and seal their 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen.

Hertha Berlin beat Leverkusen to stay top of the Bundesliga
Photo: DPA

The 29-year-old is on loan from Premier League side Liverpool, but Hertha will be in no hurry to give the Ukrainian back after he followed up last week’s hat-trick against Energie Cottbus with the goal which earned the team three points.

His goal after 50 minutes was at least partly due to good fortune after Leverkusen’s Germany goalkeeper Rene Adler went to kick the ball away, but it rebounded off Voronin’s chest into the net to claim his 11th goal in 20 games.

Hertha’s recent run has boosted attendance at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium and a crowd of 58,753 saw the win over Leverkusen.

After their Champions League heroics in midweek, when they sealed a 12-1 aggregate win over Sporting Lisbon, Bayern Munich lie second in the Bundesliga after experiencing few problems beating ten-man Bochum 3-0 away from home.

After an excellent first-half strike by Brazilian midfielder Ze Roberto after 34 minutes, things got worse for Bochum when French defender Marc Pfertzel was shown a straight red card for hauling down Bayern’s Argentina striker Jose Ernesto Sosa when he was clean through on goal.

Lukas Podolski missed the resulting penalty on 48 minutes.

But Bayern extended their lead through a top-class goal from Germany defender Philipp Lahm on 60 minutes after some good work from midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger – and then Martin Demichelis scored the third on 90 minutes.

Hoffenheim seem to have stalled somewhat, and have now gone six games without a win after they were held to a 1-1 draw at midtable Eintracht Frankfurt.

An early goal by Hoffenheim’s Brazilian Carlos Eduardo after ten minutes was cancelled out by a header from Frankfurt’s Michael Fink to leave Hoffenheim fourth by now six points off leaders Hertha.

There was a battle royal at Hanover as the home side drew 4-4 with Borussia Dortmund while Borussia Moechengladbach picked up their third win in four games to ease their relegation worries with a 4-2 win at Cologne.

And Karlsruhe are now three points off the pace at the foot of the table after they were beaten 1-0 at home by Arminia Bielefeld.

On Sunday, midtable Werder Bremen host VfB Stuttgart while Hamburg at home to Energie Cottbus.

FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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