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FOOTBALL

Bundesliga games produce many surprises

Weekend football produced some welcome - and unwelcome - surprises, as Bayern Munich lost against Leverkusen, and last-placed Freiburg beat fourth-placed Schalke.

Bundesliga games produce many surprises
Photo: DPA

Bayern’s 2-0 loss – coupled with yet another win by Bundesliga’s number one Borussia Dortmund – means the Bavarian team, which is packed with national team players, will have an even tougher time taking over the top spot.

Dortmund, the Bundesliga defending champions, beat Mainz 2-1 on Saturday, widening its distance by seven points over Bayern.

Despite the difference, Bayern Munich director of sport Christian Nerlinger is not

writing off the German league title, but admits the race is out of Bavaria’s hands.

Worringly for Nerlinger, there is clear evidence of disharmony in the team as defender Jerome Boateng and midfielder Thomas Mueller — both national team players — engaged in a second-half shouting match.

“I’m not writing off the title, but it’s not something which need concern us now. Somehow, we have to get a grip on our weakness away from home,” Nerlinger said.

“We’re deeply disappointed. In the first half, we made enough chances for three games. We have to take one of those chances, it would have completely changed the course of the match.”

Meanwhile, Berlin’s Hertha Berlin finally broke its seven-match losing streak with a 1-0 win over Werder Bremen as coach Otto Rehhagel, Bremen’s former coach, enjoyed his first win in only his second game in charge.

Rehhagel’s trained the Bremen team between 1981 and 1995, the Berliner Zeitung reported.

Rehhagel took over after Hertha’s miseries resulted in the firing of its two previous coaches. The Berlin team was hovering at the bottom and risked being demoted to the second league, where it played for years, so Saturday’s win was much needed.

The victory lifted Hertha to 15th place out of 18 teams – just one place above the danger zone where teams risk being thrown out of the first league.

In one of the biggest upsets of the weekend last placed Freiburg beat 4th placed Schalke by 2-1. The win put Freiburg in 17th place and put a dent in Schalke’s ambitions of winning a first Bundesliga title.

Schalke is now 11 points behind leader Dortmund.

Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp refused to get carried away by the seven-point lead with two months of the season still to play.

“I haven’t really thought about what the seven points mean, so I could only babble some rubbish about it,” he said.

AFP/DAPD/mw

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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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