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FOOTBALL

Sevilla curse their luck after letting Bayern lead slip

Sevilla ended their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Bayern Munich wondering what might have been, just as they had against Barcelona three days earlier.

Sevilla curse their luck after letting Bayern lead slip
Sevilla's Spanish forward Sandro Ramirez stretches his jersey during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg football match between Sevilla FC and Bayern Munich. Photo: AFP

They had chances and were the better side for large spells of their 2-1 defeat at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, but Bayern, like Barcelona, needed only a moment to strike.

Vincenzo Montella said afterwards his players had not had luck on their side and there was some truth in that.

Franck Ribery's cross was heading wide until Jesus Navas dangled out a foot and Thiago Alcantara's header would probably have been saved had it not been diverted by Sergio Escudero.

But for all their energy, verve and aggression, Sevilla have shown this week they still lack the control to manage matches against elite opposition.    

Against Bayern, they led for only six minutes, allowing their opponents to reach half-time level when they could easily have been two goals down as Pablo Sarabia, Sevilla's scorer, had planted an earlier, easier chance wide.

“With that opportunity it was a pity,” Sarabia said. “I tried to adjust it to the maximum and I did not hit the target.”

Against Barcelona they had conceded twice after holding a deserved 2-0 lead with just two minutes to go.

“We were a little lacking this side of experience… how to talk to the referee, and to be focused on small details,” Sevilla striker Wissam Ben Yedder said.

“We know that it will be very complicated because now we have to (score) two goals there but we know that everything is possible.”   

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said he believed the timing of his side's equaliser, just before the break, was a psychological turning-point.    

Scoring twice at the Allianz Arena next week is not beyond Sevilla, who can take heart from the numerous occasions they broke through Bayern on Tuesday — but it is hard to see them keeping a clean sheet.

After the second leg, they play Celta Vigo and Villarreal in La Liga before a reunion in the Spanish Cup final with Barcelona, who this time are likely to have Lionel Messi for 90 minutes.

If they are knocked out by Bayern and lose to Barca, Sevilla will be relying on their league position to qualify for Europe next season — they currently sit seventh, only two points ahead of Girona.

Bayern, meanwhile, know they will have to improve with striker Robert Lewandowski, whose name continues to be linked with Real Madrid, virtually anonymous.

It was the 34-year-old Ribery who made the difference. “In the first half we were not well organised,” Ribery said.   

“We did not play in front, at the break the coach gave us a telling off. Seville is a very good team who plays very well in football, but we reacted well after the 1-0.

“We must not believe that we are already in the semi-finals.”

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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