Fiorentina back on top of Serie A

Fiorentina returned to the top of the Serie A table on Sunday with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Frosinone as Napoli squandered their chance to grab pole position with a 0-0 draw at Genoa.

Fiorentina back on top of Serie A
Fiorentina returned to the top of the Serie A table on Sunday with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Frosinone. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Paulo Sousa's Fiorentina scored all their goals in the first half at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

They replaced Inter Milan who had briefly gone top on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Roma who in turn had led going into the weekend.

Sousa opted to make several changes to his starting XI, resting leading scorer Nikola Kalinic in order to allow Mati Fernandez to play behind Khouma Babacar.

Newly-promoted minnows Frosinone handed goalkeeper Massimo Zappino his top-flight debut, and the Viola ensured he was heavily involved in the action.

Yet after making an early save from Babacar, the 34-year-old was unable to prevent a cross from Ante Rebic bouncing in off the frame of his goal following a deflection.

If there was some fortune to Fiorentina's opener, there was little doubt of the quality of the second as Gonzalo Rodriguez netted with a sublime back-heeled effort.

Babacar got on the scoresheet with a chipped penalty before Mario Suarez stole the ball and slotted past Zappino with ease.

After the break, Fiorentina understandably eased the pressure on their mismatched opponents, eventually allowing Frosinone midfielder Alessandro Frara a late consolation goal.

“I have always said we can compete with anyone and that means we can compete for the Scudetto,” Sousa told Mediaset Premium after the game.

“We must always be competitive and I believe our Scudetto must be continually seeking a winning mentality.”

Maurizio Sarri's Napoli are fourth, two points behind Fiorentina after a frustrating 0-0 draw at Genoa.

Napoli had won their five previous league fixtures, but benched Lorenzo Insigne following his outburst after being substituted in their midweek clash with Palermo.

The home side had goalkeeper Mattia Perin to thank as he made some remarkable saves to keep Napoli at bay, Jose Callejon testing him early on before Dries Mertens struck the post.

It was a hard-earned point for Genoa, particularly as they lost both Blerim Dzemaili and Ezequiel Munoz to injury in the first half.

After the restart, Sarri introduced both Insigne and Manolo Gabbiadini in search of a winning goal, but it never came.

“We created many scoring opportunities, it's just a shame about the result,” a disappointed Sarri told MediaSet Premium.

Meanwhile, Bologna notched only their third win of the campaign, seeing off Atalanta 3-0 thanks to goals from Emanuele Giaccherini, Mattia Destro and Franco Brienza.

On Saturday, Inter downed 10-man Roma 1-0 with Gary Medel scoring the game's only goal, meaning they now trail Fiorentina in the table only by virtue of their inferior goal difference.

Reigning champions Juventus beat Turin rivals Torino 2-1 thanks to an injury time winner from on-loan Chelsea winger Juan Cuadrado. Sunday's late game sees Lazio host AC Milan.

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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.