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FOOTBALL

Osasuna thrashing dents Atletico title hopes

Atletico Madrid missed the chance to join Real Madrid at the top of La Liga as they were beaten 3-0 by Osasuna at El Sadar on Sunday.

Osasuna thrashing dents Atletico title hopes
Atletico Madrid's Brazilian forward Diego da Silva Costa vies with Osasuna's goalkeeper Andres Fernandez. Photo: Rafa Rivas/AFP

The hosts got off to a perfect start when Alvaro Cejudo took advantage of some slack marking to volley home a short corner at the back post.

Osasuna doubled their advantage on 21 minutes when Emiliano Armenteros fired a sumptuous left-footed effort in off the post and Roberto Torres killed the game as a contest when he headed in the third just before half-time.

Atletico now trail Real by three points, but can make amends when they host Los Blancos at the Vicente Calderon next Sunday.

"Osasuna worked hard and surprised us with their first two attacks, which they finished off well," said Atletico boss Diego Simeone.

"The second-half was better on our part, but we couldn't get the goal that would bring us back into the game.

"When the opponent is better I congratulate them. Osasuna played very well."

Simeone's men had taken a huge step towards reaching the last eight of the Champions League in midweek as they won 1-0 away at AC Milan, but their efforts on Wednesday looked to have taken their toll as they conceded three times in the first-half for the first time since Simeone took charge over two years ago.

The Argentine had left out three regular starters in Miranda, Koke and Arda Turan from his starting line-up and those coming in did little to further their case for more playing time.

Cejudo opened the scoring on six minutes when Arementeros' cross perfectly picked out his late run into the box and he finished first time low past the helpess Thibaut Courtois.

The Belgian keeper was beaten again 15 minutes later when Armenteros saw off a weak challenge from Atletico captain Gabi before rifling the ball home from 25 yards.

Atletico briefly threatened a comeback when Diego Costa's driven effort flew inches wide and Mario Suarez just failed the connect with Gabi's in-swinging free-kick.

However, any doubt over the outcome was wiped away three minutes before half-time when Torres found space between Diego Godin and Toby Alderweireld to head home Damia's cross from the right.

Simeone introduced Koke, Turan and Raul Garcia after the break but Atletico were still unable to find a way through.

Garcia saw an acrobatic effort from a narrow angle touched to safety by Andres Fernandez before Costa blasted his side's best opening of the game over eight minutes from time.

Earlier, Athletic Bilbao consolidated their position in fourth with a 2-0 win away at nine-man Real Betis.

Iker Muniain put Athletic in front before Damien Perquis and Lorenzo Reyes were given their marching orders for two bookable offences.

And 20-year-old forward Guillermo Fernandez Hierro sealed all three points with his first senior goal for the club nine minutes from time.

Valencia and Sevilla also kept up their fight for European football with narrow victories over Granada and Rayo Vallecano respectively.

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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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