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FOOTBALL

Elmander strike aids Bolton FA Cup progress

Swedish striker Johan Elmander's first goal since January 8th helped Bolton to overcome Birmingham and qualify for the semi-final in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Elmander and Kevin Davies had twice given Wanderers the lead only for goals from Cameron Jerome and Kevin Phillips to pull Alex McLeish’s team level at St Andrew’s.

But South Korean substitute Lee Chung-Yong had the final say with hit a 90th-minute winner as Bolton booked their first FA Cup semi-final appearance since 1975 with the 3-2 quarter-final win.

With his squad severely depleted by injuries, McLeish could name only six substitutes, but the Birmingham manager was able to call on Barry Ferguson after the midfielder agreed to take a pain-killing injection to play with a broken rib.

It took 13 minutes for the game’s first chance to arrive with Birmingham defender Curtis Davies’ looping header saved comfortably by Trotters goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen from Sebastian Larsson’s free-kick.

Yet eight minutes later it was Bolton who took the lead when Fabrice Muamba overpowered Ferguson to head goalwards, Ivan Klasnic hooked the ball on and

Sweden international Elmander fired inside the left post for his first goal since January 8th.

McLeish’s frustrations grew further when Martin Jiranek, who took an early knock to the ankle, and Ferguson, with what looked to be his thigh, were both forced off with injuries inside the opening half hour with Liam Ridgewell, himself not fully fit, and Nathan Redmond, who only turned 17 last week, brought on.

Yet just as the momentum appeared fully in Bolton’s favour, Birmingham demonstrated their famous fighting spirit thanks to a fine goal to level things up from Jerome seven minutes before half-time.

Jerome’s header into the box was cleared straight back to him by David Wheater and he punished Jussi Jaaskelainen’s poor positioning with a crisp half-volley inside the near post.

Coyle had to be spoken to by referee Phil Dowd in the 54th minute for his furious reaction to his side having a free-kick awarded to them, as opposed to being handed a penalty, when Curtis Davies handballed inside the penalty area under pressure from Gary Cahill.

Four minutes later the officials had another big call to make when Jean Beausejour sent Jerome clean through from the right channel only for Jaaskelainen to dart off his line and send him tumbling, however the Finland goalkeeper took the ball before the man.

Lee made a vital clearance off the line to deny Kevin Phillips with his first touch and it proved a crucial moment as within minutes Bolton had regained the lead.

Curtis Davies clumsily bundled Kevin Davies over inside the area and the Trotters skipper made no mistake with his 66th-minute penalty down the middle.

Jaaskelainen made an outstanding finger-tip save to turn Phillips’ well-struck effort onto the far post four minutes later as the home side pushed for an equaliser.

However, there was nothing he could do about the veteran striker’s stunning hooked effort into the top corner from 22 yards with 10 minutes to go, which had looked set to force a replay until Lee’s dramatic headed winner from a Kevin Davies knock-down.

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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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