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FOOTBALL

Juventus beat Madrid to face Barca in final

Juventus will face Barcelona in the Champions League final after Alvaro Morata came back to haunt former club and holders Real Madrid with the precious away goal in a 1-1 draw in the second leg of their semi-final on Wednesday to progress 3-2 on aggregate.

Juventus beat Madrid to face Barca in final
Gareth Bale reacts during the semi-final second leg football match Real Madrid FC vs Juventus at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 13, 2015.Photo: Curto de la Torre / AFP

With Juventus leading 2-1 from the first leg, Cristiano Ronaldo's first-half penalty had put the hosts ahead on away goals.

However, Morata, who left Madrid for the Italian champions last July, struck the vital blow when he volleyed home Paul Pogba's knockdown on 57 minutes to take Juventus to their first final in 12 years in Berlin on June 6.

“After the first goal we thought it was done,” said Madrid defender Sergio Ramos.

“We have to congratulate them. They have gone through because they have done things better.

“It wasn't just one game but two. Here we didn't score enough goals and weren't efficient in front of goal.”

Soaring temperatures of over 30 degrees celsius didn't prevent a frantic start to the match as the hosts went looking for the goal they needed from the off.

Gareth Bale had the first chance as he headed over Marcelo's cross before Karim Benzema blasted off target from a narrow angle having turned Stephan Lichtsteiner brilliantly inside the area.

Ronaldo then saw a free-kick deflected narrowly over, but Juventus were also enjoying good spells of possession and Iker Casillas was forced into action on 13 minutes when he turned Arturo Vidal's effort from the edge of the box to safety.

Benzema breached the Juventus backline once more six minutes later, but his pass was behind Ronaldo and the Portuguese couldn't turn the ball into an unguarded net.

The unrelenting Madrid pressure continued as Bale's piledriver was brilliantly turned behind by Gianluigi Buffon.

However, there was nothing the Italian captain could do to prevent Ronaldo registering his 10th goal in Champions League semi-finals from the spot after James Rodriguez had been felled by Giorgio Chiellini midway through the half.

Buffon came to his side's rescue with two more saves from Benzema, whilst Ronaldo also smashed into the side-netting and wasted a clear opening by trying to square for Isco with the goal at his mercy before half-time.

Claudio Marchisio was first to take aim after the break as his driven effort flew just beyond Casillas's right-hand post.

Juventus did get the all-important away goal just before the hour mark when Madrid failed to fully clear from Andrea Pirlo's free-kick and Morata was on hand to volley home after Pogba outmuscled Sergio Ramos.

Bale had the chance to silence his critics five minutes later as Marcelo stormed down the left and his low cross was sliced wide by the Welshman at the near post.

Casillas kept Madrid in the tie as he spread himself to make a fine save from Marchisio as the game raged from end to end.  

Bale headed over from Ronaldo's cross as the European champions grip on the trophy started to slip away.

Casillas denied Juventus victory on the night by getting strong hands to Pogba's drive.

But their captain's efforts were in vain as Madrid's final realistic hopes of winning a major trophy this season disappeared and Juventus progressed to their eighth European Cup final.

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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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