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FOOTBALL

Dortmund extends league lead to 13 points

Borussia Dortmund extended their lead at the top of the Bundesliga to 13 points on Friday, blitzing second-placed Bayer Leverkusen with three goals in just six minutes for an impressive 3-1 away win.

Dortmund extends league lead to 13 points
Götze, centre, celebrates the third Dortmund goal. Photo: DPA

Having started 2011 with a ten-point lead, Dortmund hit second-half goals in quick succession from teenager Mario Götze and two from 22-year-old Kevin Grosskreutz to seal the win.

With such a commanding cushion at the top of the liga, Dortmund can start dreaming of their first German title since 2002.

“I have been going to watch Dortmund since 1994 and I know what it’s like to win the league title as a fan on the terraces,” said Grosskreutz.

“I have been dreaming of this since I was a little boy and I’d love to hold the cup in my hands.”

Although Leverkusen rallied in the game’s final 15 minutes, Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp, who has been tipped as a future manager of English giants Liverpool, was clearly delighted with his side’s convincing away win.

“The plan was to continue to play our own style of football, which we did,” said Klopp.

“The first goal settled the nerves and we weren’t comfortable until we got the third goal.”

Dortmund’s clinical second-half performance overshadowed the eagerly anticipated return of Germany captain Michael Ballack from the leg injury which has kept him out of football since September.

Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes opted to delay the veteran’s return by keeping him on the bench for the entire game.

Grosskreutz, who is tipped as a future Germany star, opened the scoring when he latched onto a handball by Leverkusen defender Daniel Schwaab and tapped his shot past Leverkusen’s Germany goalkeeper Rene Adler on 49 minutes.

Just four minutes later, the attacking midfielder curled his shot around Adler after Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller’s goal kick was headed on by striker Robert Lewandowski for Grosskreutz to blast home.

And Leverkusen’s misery was complete when Grosskreutz turned provider as Götze beat Adler for the third time from close-range on 55 minutes.

Only a superb save from Adler stopped it from being 4-0 when substitute Lucas Barrios fired in a shot from the left flank from long-range which prompted a full-stretch save from the national goalie.

With 10 minutes remaining, Leverkusen striker Steffan Kiessling pulled a goal back for the hosts when he latched onto a cross from Renato Augusto to stab the ball into the net, injuring himself on the goalpost in the process.

The result sees Leverkusen drop down to third, while defending champions Bayern Munich open their 2011 campaign with a 17-point deficit to make up when they face Wolfsburg away on Saturday.

AFP/hc

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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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