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FOOTBALL

Nine-man Atletico held to draw at Getafe

Atletico Madrid lost more ground on Real Madrid in the race for second place in La Liga as they held on for a 0-0 draw at Getafe on Sunday despite being reduced to nine men.

Nine-man Atletico held to draw at Getafe
Atletico Madrid's Colombian forward Falcao gestures during the Spanish league football match against Getafe. Photo: Pedro Armestre/AFP

The visitors had the better of the chances in the first-half, but had to ride their luck in the second as Getafe were denied a strong claim for a penalty before Mario Suarez was sent-off for a second yellow card.

Thibaut Courtois then had to make a fine save from Borja Fernandez with six minutes remaining before Diego Godin was also given his marching orders for a second bookable offence in stoppage time.

The draw means Atletico have now won just one of their last five league games and manager Diego Simeone accepts they are struggling to reproduce their early season form.

"The season is very long and the opponents start to know you and look for solutions," he told a press conference.

"We won in Pamplona (against Osasuna), drew against Valencia and here. We would like to continue improving and it is true that we have not been as efficient as we were earlier in the season."

Atletico's dip in form has also coincided with Radamel Falcao scoring just once in the last five outings, but Simeone defended the Colombian's record so far this season.

"We know Radamel is an important player in front of goal and his numbers are incredible.

"He has 22 goals with eight games to go, which is only two less than he had last season. I don't think this has happened very often.

"I hope we will always have a striker that assures this number of goals." 

Falcao did though uncharacteristically miss a great chance to give Atletico the lead early on when he prodded wide from Diego Costa's cross.

Atletico were fortunate after the break though as referee Carlos Delgado Ferreiro somehow judged that Godin's trip on Adrian Colunga took place just outside the box despite contact clearly being made well inside the area and Barrada sent the resulting free-kick inches wide.

Simeone's men weren't so lucky minutes later as Suarez saw a harsh second yellow for handball. However, despite the man advantage, Getafe struggled to create chances and their best effort came when Borja let fly from 25 yards but Courtois showed strong hands to parry the ball to safety.

And a scrappy game was summed up when Godin was shown also shown a second yellow card in stoppage time for catching Alvaro Vasquez as they contested a high ball. 

Valencia kept up their pursuit of fourth place as Jonas' injury time header handed them a 2-1 win over 10-man Valladolid.

Mikel Balenziaga's own goal had given the hosts a half-time lead and Henrique Sereno was then dismissed after bringing down Roberto Soldado inside the area 11 minutes after the break.

But Soldado's penalty was saved by Dani Hernandez and Oscar Gonzalez looked to have rescued the visitors a point with a lovely finish in off the underside of the bar 19 minutes from time until Jonas' late intervention.

At the bottom Celta Vigo remain in the bottom three as they lost 2-0 at home to Rayo Vallecano.

Piti and Andrija Delibasic got the goals for Paco Jemez's side to leave Celta still three points off safety with eight games remaining.

And Osasuna are also still in the relegation battle as they too lost 2-0 at home to Espanyol.

The hosts were left to rue Kike Sola's incredible first-half miss as goals after the break from Hector Moreno and Mubarak Wakaso moved Espanyol up to 11th.

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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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