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FOOTBALL

Gareth Bale sees red for first time in Madrid career

Gareth Bale complained he had been harshly treated after the first red card of his Real Madrid career cost the European champions in a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Las Palmas on Wednesday.

Gareth Bale sees red for first time in Madrid career
Photo: Javier Soriano / AFP

Bale kicked out at Jonathan Viera twice before finally pushing the Las Palmas midfielder to the ground early in the second-half with the scores level at 1-1.

“I don't believe that it was deserving of a red card,” the Welshman told Real Madrid TV.

“I was shown the yellow for the foul, I was then pushed and I just pushed him back.

“I want to apologise to the team and the fans. I hope to learn from my mistake”.

Madrid looked set for a first home league defeat in a year as Las Palmas took advantage of Bale's dismissal to lead 3-1 with just three minutes remaining through Viera and Kevin-Prince Boateng.

However, Cristiano Ronaldo's double salvaged a draw that keeps Real just a point adrift of league leaders Barcelona with a game in hand.

“We can't look for excuses,” said Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

“What we can do is improve our performance. We are not happy with how we are playing.

“There are moments in the season like this. The past three or four games things haven't gone as we would want, but we are not going to look for excuses in the referees.”

Madrid vice-captain Marcelo said Bale is aware his moment of madness had badly let his teammates down.

“I am not one to give him a clip round the ear, that is what I do to my children,” said the Brazilian.

“Bale is old enough to know if he has made a mistake or not. 

“These things happen in football, but hopefully it doesn't happen again between now and the end of the season.”

In a recurring theme of Madrid's season, a stunning late effort undid a lot of the damage caused by a below-par display.

The European champions trailed Villarreal 2-0 on Sunday before a rousing fightback in the final 25 minutes sealed a 3-2 win.

'We will change things'

However, having also lost 2-1 at Valencia last week after conceding twice in the first 10 minutes, Zidane insisted Los Blancos can't always leave themselves with a mountain to climb.

“We can't go over the top. There are things we have done well this year, but we have to analyse it and we will change things,” added the Frenchman. 

“We have shown we have character and we can do more. We have to improve particularly in our first-half performances.

“We have to think about the positives. We will analyse the negatives, but to come back from 1-3 to 3-3 is a huge effort.”

On the same night that Barcelona coach Luis Enrique announced he will not continue next season, the Catalans have the fate of the title in their own hands for the first time in months.

A 6-1 thrashing of Sporting Gijon earlier on Wednesday saw Barca leapfrog Madrid into top spot and the two sides are still to meet at Real's Santiago Bernabeu in April.

However, Zidane rejected suggestions Madrid are in danger of throwing the title away.

“We are going to fight. When there were good moments and we were leaders, I always said we would have difficult moments.

“We are not leaders, but the league is still open and we are not going to give up.

“You win leagues at the end (of the season) not now.”

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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