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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

FOOTBALL

Real rout Schalke to earn rare win in Germany

Real Madrid notched up a rare victory on German soil as they romped to a 6-1 win at Schalke 04 in Wednesday's Champions League's last 16, first-leg clash.

Real rout Schalke to earn rare win in Germany
Real Madrid's Portuguese defender Pepe and team mates celebrate their team's second goal. Photo: Ronny Hartmann/AFP

Real are now all but guaranteed a quarter-final place even with the return leg to come in Madrid on March 18 after Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale both scored braces.

Real's Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo also scored twice on his return from a three game suspension to see him take over from Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the competition's top-scorer this season with 11 goals.

"The team has played a lot of good games and this is one more," said Ronaldo.

"We played well and didn't allow Schalke to play at their best. We are happy and a step away from the next round.

"The Schalke goalkeeper did very well and made good saves, but I believe in my ability and my teammates helped me a lot.

"I am very happy to score two goals."

Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann admitted his side had been outclassed as Real fired in 21 goal attempts compared to 10 by the hosts.

"One save against Ronaldo isn't enough. Real Madrid were a class apart tonight," said Faehrmann.

"When you start conceding goals, it's almost impossible to come back against Real Madrid."

Netherlands striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored a 91st-minute consolation goal for Schalke, but it couldn't prevent the Royal Blues suffering their heaviest defeat in European competition.

"You can see the disappointment is etched on our faces, but we will come back from this," said Schalke captain Benedikt Hoewedes.

Carlo Ancelotti's Real are now unbeaten in their last 27 games dating back to October.

"After the early goal, we started getting a lot of room, that was the reason for our perfect night," said the Italian.

The huge victory went some way to correcting Real's terrible away record in Germany as they made the Royal Blues of Schalke look anything but regal.

This was only Real's second win in 26 visits to Germany after 18 defeats, including their 4-1 drubbing at Borussia Dortmund in last season's Champions League's semi-final.

Real needed just 13 minutes to take the lead at the Veltins Arena as their star-studded attack clicked into gear.

Bale cut in from the right, the ball came to Ronaldo and his backheel was deflected by a Schalke defender to Benzema and he fired past Faehrmann.

Schalke could have equalised almost immediately as teenage midfielder Max Meyer fired over the bar with the goal at his mercy after Iker Casillas had blocked Julian Draxler's shot.

Schalke were punished for wasting their rare opportunity and with 21 minutes gone, Bale held off two Schalke defenders to make it 2-0.

Schalke's situation was not helped by Ronaldo effortlessly switching with Bale from the left to the right wing midway through the first half, only to revert back after the break.

Schalke came out all guns blazing for the second-half as Kevin-Prince Boateng forced Casillas into a save.

But Ronaldo finally got on the scoresheet at the fourth attempt to claim his 10th European goal of the season in his sixth Champions League match.

He effortlessly turned Cameroon centre-back Joel Matip inside, then out before tucking the ball just inside the far post with 52 minutes gone.

Just five minutes later, his deft backheel fell into Benzema's path for the Frenchman to drill home his second of the night and Real's fourth.

It was one-way traffic by now and Bale scored his second and Real's fifth when Sergio Ramos's through ball was driven low into the bottom left-hand corner on 69 minutes.

Ronaldo then grabbed his second on 89 minutes to leave him with 36 goals in 33 games for Real this season before Huntelaar finally put Schalke on the board just before the final whistle

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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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