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FOOTBALL

Galatasaray torpedo Schalke’s CL dreams

Schalke 04's Champions League ambitions ended in spectacular fashion on Tuesday as a last-minute goal from Turkey forward Umut Bulut sealed a 3-2 defeat to Galatasaray that put the Turkish side into the quarter-finals.

Galatasaray torpedo Schalke's CL dreams
Photo: DPA

With the German defence at full stretch and time almost up, Bulut provided the killer blow with the 95th-minute second-leg winner which put Schalke out of the competition with a 3-4 aggregate loss over the two legs of the last 16 tie.

The German side failed in its bid to join Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals.

With some 10,000 Galatasaray fans among the 54,142 strong crowd, in part due to Gelsenkirchen’s sizeable Turkish community, the first-half was a breathtaking affair as control slipped from the host’s grip and into that of the Turkish side.

Midfielder Roman Neustädter gave the German side an early lead in the 17th minute, when the ball fell to him after captain Benedikt Höwedes’s header was blocked and he fired past goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

The advantage lasted 20 minutes as Galatasaray got back on level terms when a short free-kick caught the hosts cold and Altintop planted an unstoppable shot which clipped the post as it flew in, just out of Hildebrand’s reach.

The Turkish league leaders then went 3-2 ahead on aggregate in the 42nd minute from an innocuous situation when left-back Albert Riera slid in to dispossess Marco Höger in the Schalke half.

The ball flew over the home defence and into the path of Yilmaz, who bolted onto the loose ball, held off Höwedes and lobbed Hildebrand to put Galatasaray ahead.

The Royal Blues took the game by the scruff of the neck with Finland striker Teemu Pukki, in for injured Dutch star Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, going close, while Julian Draxler, 19, also tested Muslera.

Schalke equalised when Muslera’s save fell to Japan right-back Atsuto Uchida who slid a pass out to Michel Bastos, who fired home from close range to give his team a lifeline.

Both sides had their chances to settle the matter as Pukki, with the ball as his feet, forced Muslera into a great save, as did Bastos, while at the other end Hildebrand was called into action to deny Nordin Amrabat.

But when Schalke were caught out by a late counter-attack, it was Bulut who rounded Hildebrand to knock the hosts out.

“We are all very disappointed,” said Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand. “We made a mistake for their first goal (by Altintop), the sort you can’t afford in the Champions League and we were punished straight away.”

Having scored Galatasaray’s first goal with a beautifully stuck long-range shot, Altintop, the ex-Schalke midfielder who was born in Gelsenkirchen, asked for the home fans’ forgiveness.

“I learnt to play football here, I started my career here and a part of me is still Schalke, I hope the fans can forgive my celebration,” said Altintop, who left the Royal Blues in 2007 after a four year stay.

AFP/mjl

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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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