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FOOTBALL

Bayern Munich secures St Pauli relegation

Bayern Munich secured Champions League qualification after an 8-1 goal-fest at St Pauli ensured they will finish at least third in the Bundesliga – and that their Hamburg hosts will be relegated.

Bayern Munich secures St Pauli relegation
Bayern's third goal rockets into St Pauli's net. Photo: DPA

Bayern’s rout on Saturday closes the gap on second-placed Bayer Leverkusen, who drew 1-1 at Hamburg, and means Bayern could now finish second when the season finishes next Saturday.

Bayern will need Leverkusen to lose at Freiburg next Saturday and pick up a win at home to VfB Stuttgart themselves, in order to claim second, with only the top two teams automatically qualifying for the Champions League.

Third place in the Bundesliga means entry to the Champions League play-off round, the final stage before the group phase.

“We concentrated from the start, we got an early goal and took our chances to make it 2-0,” said Bayern’s caretaker coach, Andries Jonker.

“You could see how quick our players were when they had the necessary space. We can now enjoy third place and maybe we can still finish a bit higher.”

Bayern striker Mario Gomez opened the scoring after 10 minutes for Bayern and then netted his second of the game with nearly an hour gone.

With St Pauli’s defence in tatters, Dutch winger Arjen Robben netted twice and set up Gomez for the simplest of tap-ins with time almost up to give the Germany star his 27th league goal of the season and 38th in all competitions.

Just before the final whistle, France winger Franck Ribery completed the rout with his second goal of the game.

A header by Marcel Eger on 78 minutes proved to be no more than a consolation goal for St Pauli as they faced their 20th defeat of the season.

Having only come up last season, the north German side will be back in the second Bundesliga as they suffered another relegation to go with their drops in 1978, 1991, 1997 and 2002.

While his team goes down, coach Holger Stanislawski is at least guaranteed top-flight football next season as he will take over as Hoffenheim coach.

“This is obviously a disappointing and depressing defeat,” said Stanislawski. “I’ll need a few days to get over this.”

Fourth-placed Hannover’s 2-1 loss at Stuttgart means Bayern cannot finish lower than third, while 2007 champions Stuttgart moved up to 11th.

Fresh from having been confirmed 2011 German league winners last Saturday, Borussia Dortmund suffered a 2-0 defeat at Werder Bremen, who are now assured of Bundesliga football next season.

Mainz will play Europa League football next season after their 3-1 win at Schalke 04, who were dumped out of the Champions League on Wednesday after a 4-1 defeat at Manchester United in the second leg of their semi-final.

Mainz cannot now finish lower than fifth.

At the bottom of the table, Borussia Mönchengladbach are on course to pull off one of the most remarkable escape acts after they beat Freiburg 2-0.

It was their third straight victory after previous wins over champions Dortmund and high-flying Hannover.

The win leaves them 16th and they are level with 2009 champions Wolfsburg, whose 2-1 defeat at home to Kaiserslautern has dragged them back into the relegation fight.

Eintracht Frankfurt’s 2-0 defeat at home to Cologne means they are set to be relegated next weekend. They must beat champions Dortmund at home next weekend and hope results go their way to be sure of survival.

A group of around 150 Eintracht fans invaded the pitch after the match, and were beaten back by hundreds of riot police using pepper spray and batons.

Frankfurt players had to flee into the changing rooms.

“The behaviour of the fans is just terrible,” admitted Frankfurt chairman Wilhelm Bender.

This is the second Saturday in succession that Frankfurt fans have allowed their emotions to boil over.

A group of 200 fans stoned the team’s bus after they were beaten 3-0 at Mainz last weekend and the club cancelled training on police advice early last week before resuming their preparations in secrecy.

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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