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FOOTBALL

Dortmund face crunch match in Europe

Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp admits his side must beat Greece's Olympiakos on Tuesday to keep any hopes alive of reaching the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

Dortmund face crunch match in Europe
Photo: DPA

After drawing with Arsenal in their first game, consecutive defeats at both Marseille and Olympiakos mean Dortmund have just one point from their first three games and a third defeat would mean they are just playing for pride.

Dortmund’s main injury concern is Germany midfielder Sven Bender, who had to come off with a numb foot during his team’s 1-1 draw at VfB Stuttgart in the German league on Saturday.

But Klopp says his side must match Olympiakos at home after losing 3-1 in Greece a fortnight ago as the defeat left the Germans bottom of Group F, five points adrift of second-placed Marseille and six behind leaders Arsenal.

“We need to play at least as well as we did against Stuttgart,” said Klopp. “Our chances of qualifying are over if we lose. We have learned our lessons from the first three games and we know what we have to do to make this group more interesting.”

While Dortmund were drawing in Stuttgart, Olympiakos were held to a 2-2

draw at home to OFI Crete and the Greeks, third in the group, need a win just

as badly as the Germans.

“It is our most important game to date,” said Dortmund defender Neven Subotic. “We got ourselves into a situation where we really need a win. The faster we can score the better, because we only have three chances left to get some points.”

With German cup and league games coming thick and fast for Dortmund, on top of their Champions League campaign, Dortmund face their sixth game in 19 days on Tuesday and Subotic says there is little time for anything other than resting and playing.

“All we are doing at the moment is sleeping and playing football,” he said. “Sunday was a day of regeneration and lying on the couch, so to be ready for Tuesday. It’s not much of a life at the moment.”

AFP/bk

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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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