Dortmund stretch lead at the top

Borussia Dortmund opened up a 15-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga on Friday night with a 1-0 home win against Cologne to take another step closer to the German league title.

Dortmund stretch lead at the top
Photo: DPA

Poland striker Robert Lewandowski’s 44th-minute strike proved to be enough to give Dortmund their 19th win of the season from 25 games.

With nine matches left to play, Jürgen Klopp’s team are cruising towards their first league title since 2002 and a Champions League place next season.

“This was probably one of the most deserved 1-0 wins of all times,” said Klopp after his side laid seige to the Cologne goal in the second-half. “The boys created so many chances over the 90 minutes. The fact that things worked out this way is unbelievable. The team is continuing to take these little steps (towards the title).”

“Robert Lewandowski is a great lad, I am sincerely pleased for him that he scored the winner, that is another feather in his cap,” he added.

Second-placed Leverkusen have a chance to close the gap when they host Wolfsburg on Saturday evening, while defending champions Bayern Munich, fourth, badly need a win at third-placed Hanover after back-to-back defeats.

Dortmund’s Lewandowski opened the scoring when he chested down the ball from a long pass and slammed it into the bottom far corner just before the half-time break to put his team in control.

Despite missing last week with a knee injury, Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller produced several good saves, especially in the first-half, to keep Cologne out.

Dortmund’s reserve goalkeeper, Australian Mitchell Langerak who produced a stellar performance in Munich last week in the 3-1 win over defending champions Bayern, was relegated back to the bench.

Cologne’s ex-Bayern goalkeeper Michael Rensing had a busy second-half as he denied Lewandowski, only for Dortmund striker Lucas Barrios to then hit the cross-bar – for the eighth time this season – with less than 15 minutes left.

Bayern begin their recovery after the shock of Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Schalke, in the semi-final of the German Cup, at Hanover on Saturday after last weekend’s league defeat at home to Dortmund.

Coach Louis van Gaal has acknowledged a third straight defeat may cost him his job – less then a fortnight after his team won at holders Inter Milan in the Champions League.


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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.