SHARE
COPY LINK

FOOTBALL

Ronaldo rescues Real Madrid after sensational Juventus comeback

Cristiano Ronaldo rescued Real Madrid from a shock Champions League exit as his injury-time penalty allowed the holders to edge out Juventus in the most dramatic of quarter-finals on Wednesday, taking them through despite a 3-1 defeat.

Ronaldo rescues Real Madrid after sensational Juventus comeback
Ronaldo saved Real from Champions League defeat. Photo: AFP

Real had looked certain to make the last four following last week's 3-0 first-leg victory in Turin, but Juve staged a sensational comeback in the return at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Mario Mandzukic's two first-half headers kept the dream alive before Blaise Matuidi capitalised on a Keylor Navas error to pull the Italians level with half an hour left.

But, just as a thrilling second leg looked to be heading for extra time, English referee Michael Oliver awarded Real a penalty in stoppage time.   

With the game in the 97th minute, Ronaldo made no mistake from 12 yards, ensuring a 3-1 defeat on the night but a 4-3 win on aggregate.   

Gianluigi Buffon, making his 125th and perhaps final Champions League appearance before retirement, was sent off for his protests. If it is to be the 40-year-old's European farewell, it was a sad way to end.

On Wednesday morning, Madrid newspaper Marca had revelled in Barcelona's collapse against Roma the night before with the headline 'Total Failure', but Zinedine Zidane's side came within a whisker of trumping that with an emphatic loss on their own patch.

Real conceded the opener after just 76 seconds, the fastest they have ever conceded at home in the Champions League.    

But Ronaldo came up trumps again, scoring in his 11th consecutive fixture in this competition, extending his own record, and keeping Real on course for a third consecutive European triumph.

Zidane had handed Gareth Bale his first Champions League start since September but this was far from a night of redemption for the Welshman. He was hauled off at half-time, with Real two down, and replaced by Marco Asensio. 

Real exposed

Edin Dzeko needed six minutes to set Roma on their way against Barcelona, but Juve needed just over one.

Sami Khedira hung a deep cross to the back post where Mandzukic powered a header past Navas.   

His second, eight minutes before half-time, was almost a carbon copy. This time it was substitute Stephan Lichtsteiner, on for Mattia De Sciglio, who was given too much space by Marcelo to cross. Again Mandzukic jumped higher than Dani Carvajal as he nodded between Navas' right hand and the near post.

In between, Real had dictated possession and created chances of their own, but Buffon was in imperious form. Just after Mandzukic got his second goal, Raphael Varane rattled the crossbar with a header to which Buffon got his fingertips.

Real, though, were shaky at the back, the channel between Marcelo and 21-year-old Jesus Vallejo regularly offering Juve hope.   

Bale's night was up at half-time as he and Casemiro were replaced by Zidane's tried-and-trusted duo in Europe of Vazquez and Asensio.   

However, Real's defensive problems were exposed again on the hour.   

Douglas Costa crossed from the right but Navas dropped the ball, allowing Matuidi to stab home and level the tie.   

Isco drove towards the bottom corner but Buffon's hand was there and the game looked to be drifting towards extra-time until the 93rd minute.   

Hanging in the air at the back post, Ronaldo nodded down to Vazquez who looked certain to score from five yards before Medhi Benatia desperately challenged him from behind.

Oliver pointed to the spot much and in the ensuing chaos, Buffon was sent off for his protests.

Wojciech Szczesny came on to face the decisive strike of the game. Ronaldo exhaled and slammed it into the top right-hand corner to take Real into the semi-finals.

By AFP's Thomas Allnutt

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.

SHOW COMMENTS