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Champions League: Real beat City to set up all-Madrid final

Real Madrid will face Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final for the second time in three years after overcoming Manchester City 1-0 in their semi-final second leg on Wednesday.

Champions League: Real beat City to set up all-Madrid final
Atletico and Real Madrid ahead of the 2014 final. Photo: AFP

Brazilian midfielder Fernando deflected Gareth Bale's cross into his own net after 20 minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu for the only goal of the tie after the first leg ended goalless.

Fernandinho came closest to taking City to their first ever Champions League final when his shot clipped the outside of the post a minute before half-time.

Real beat Atletico 4-1 after extra time in Lisbon two years ago to win the competition for a 10th time and will be hoping for a repeat when they face Diego Simeone's men in Milan on May 28th.

“It is another final. It has been very difficult to get there,” Madrid defender Sergio Ramos — whose 93rd-minute header sent the previous final against Atletico into extra time – told BeIN Sports Spain.

“We have shown we know how to win a final and we are going to try and do it
again.”

City's performance over the two legs left much to be desired, but goalkeeper Joe Hart claimed the difference between the sides had been the luck Real enjoyed in the only goal of the game.

“We could easily be in the final but they managed the game well,” he told BT Sport.

“They've beaten us with a very lucky goal but it is what it is.”    

City manager Manuel Pellegrini's time at the club will come to an end without European glory as he will be replaced at the end of the season by Pep Guardiola.

And the Chilean lamented his side's lack of creativity to cause Madrid problems over the two legs.

“We worked very well the whole game and that is why Real Madrid couldn't create chances, but after that you need creativity and players who can make the difference in the last third and we lacked that.”  

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane now has the chance to repeat his Champions League success as a player with Real in 2002 in his first season in charge as a coach.

“In a semi-final you always have to suffer, but we've achieved our place in the final,” said Zidane.

Real were given a huge boost before kick-off as Cristiano Ronaldo made his return after a three-game absence due to a thigh injury.  

By contrast, City were dealt a massive injury blow inside 10 minutes when captain Vincent Kompany was forced off once more with a muscle problem in an injury-disrupted campaign.

Ronaldo was looking to equal his own record of 17 Champions League goals in a season, but sent his first chance well over the bar with a header from Dani Carvajal's cross.

However, Madrid got the luck they needed to swing the tie in their favour with their next attack as Bale was played in on the right of the City box and his intended cross spooned up off Fernando and into the far corner to leave Hart helpless.

Inexperience

The difference in European pedigree between the clubs couldn't have been starker as Madrid were playing in their 27th semi-final, whilst City were in the last four for the first time.

That inexperience looked to be taking hold as City enjoyed decent spells of first-half possession without troubling the Real defence.

However, they came within inches of finding the crucial away goal just before the break when Kevin De Bruyne picked out Fernandinho and the Brazilian midfielder's low driven shot clipped the outside of the post.

The goalmouth action was all in City's box early in the second period as Hart denied Luka Modric and Ronaldo twice before Bale's looping header came back off the bar.

Yet, out of nothing City nearly snatched the goal they needed a minute from time when top scorer Sergio Aguero's first serious effort of the tie dipped onto the roof of the net.

Despite a frantic finale, though, Madrid continued their record of not conceding a goal at home in the Champions League this season to progress to their 14th European Cup final.

 By Kieran Canning / AFP

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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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