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FOOTBALL

Hoffenheim opens Bundesliga campaign with 4-1 win over Bremen

Hoffenheim destroyed Werder Bremen 4-1 on Saturday in their opening Bundesliga season game, challenging Bayern Munich's claim to again being the team to beat after the Bavarians won against Wolfsburg on Friday.

Hoffenheim opens Bundesliga campaign with 4-1 win over Bremen
Demba Ba and teammates celebrate. Photo: DPA

Hoffenheim hammered home three goals within six minutes of each other in the first half, after conceding an early penalty.

“We were extremely bitter about conceding the early penalty and it could have led to gloomy thoughts,” said Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick.

“The team was totally unfazed by the penalty and to lead 4-1 at half-time is just fantastic, in the second-half we went off the boil, but the game was won.”

Fresh from their 3-1 win over Sampdoria on Thursday in the Champions League qualifier, Bremen were humbled as the home side blitzed their hosts in the first 45 minutes.

“We are obviously very disappointed. We played a bad game,” said Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf.

“We started well with the early penalty, but we lost control of the game and we have to question how that happened.”

Bremen took the lead when captain Torsten Frings slotted home an early penalty after a Hoffenheim hand ball, but it was then all downhill for Werder.

Hoffenheim drew level when Senegal striker Demba Ba netted in the 20th minute, but things got surreal when Hoffenheim netted three goals in six minutes.

The rout started when teenager Peniel Mlapa slotted coolly past Bremen’s Germany goalkeeper Tim Wiese on 37 minutes.

Striker Vedad Ibisevic then made it 3-1 when Frings was robbed of possesion by Brazilian midfielder Luiz Gustavo, sprinted downfield and put in a superb pass for his Bosnian team-mate to convert on 41 minutes.

Bremen’s misery was compounded just two minutes later when Sejad Salihovic curled in a free-kick which left the Werder goalkeeper stranded as it finished 4-1 at the break and stayed that way.

Elsewhere, a late goal by former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy gave Hamburg three points and sealed a 2-1 win over ten-man Schalke 04 on Saturday night after Royal Blues defender Benedikt Hoewedes was sent off after an hour.

Dutch striker van Nistelrooy scored either side of half-time, including a late winner after Schalke’s Jefferson Farfan had equalised with a dream flick of the foot on 80 minutes.

“It turned out well, that was a super day,” said van Nistelrooy making his league debut for Schalke with former Real Madrid team-mate Raul.

“For me it was not a duel against Raul, he is a mate and friend.

“Today I scored the goals, but next time it could be him.”

Earlier, Bundesliga history was made in Cologne as Lebanon defender Youssef Mohamad earned the fastest ever red card when he was sent off just 92 seconds into the new season in the 3-1 defeat against newly-promoted Kaiserslautern.

After Austrian striker Erwin Hoffer got around the back of the Cologne defence, Mohamad was the last defender and when he brought down Hoffer, referee Doctor Felix Brych showed him a straight red card.

In the other results, Mönchengladbach drew 1-1 at home to Nuremberg as Cameroon striker Mohamadou Idrissou equalised for the hosts.

Hanover beat Frankfurt 2-1 while newly-promoted St Pauli scored three goals in the last eight minutes to seal a 3-1 win at Freiburg.

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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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