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FOOTBALL

Bayern Munich win sixth straight German league title

Bayern Munich were crowned Bundesliga champions for the sixth consecutive season on Saturday as James Rodriguez helped turn the game in their 4-1 comeback victory at Augsburg.

Bayern Munich win sixth straight German league title
Bayern Munich celebrate their victory on Saturday. Photo: DPA
The result means Bayern are German league champions for the 28th time in their history, and it was the sixth year in a row they have won the Bundesliga since their treble-winning season in 2013.
 
Augsburg took a shock lead through an own goal by Niklas Suele, but the Bavarians roared back as Corentin Tolisso, James — who then assisted Arjen Robben — and Sandro Wagner all scored.
 
The result leaves Bayern 20 points clear with five league games left and underlined their absolute dominance of the Bundesliga.   
 
“It's always good (to win a title) — we knew it was going to happen, but we still had to confirm it,” said Robben, who has now won the Bundesliga title seven times since joining Bayern in 2009. “Nothing is given away in the Bundesliga.”
 
Following the match, the 34-year-old Robben revealed he is considering offers from other clubs despite winning the 11th league title of his career. Saturday's victory was Robben's seventh Bundesliga crown since joining Bayern in 2009, but with his contract expiring in June, he could yet leave at the end of the campaign.
 
“Other teams have contacted me,” Robben told Sky, having also won the Spanish and English league titles with Real Madrid and Chelsea respectively. 
 
The Dutch winger implied he would not definitely sign a contract extension with Bayern even if offered one.
 
Turnaround after coach switch
 
Bayern were five points adrift when Carlo Ancelotti was sacked as head coach last September, but 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes who replaced him credited the players with turning Bayern's fortunes around.
 
“The coach is responsible for the big picture, but first and foremost the players are the protagonists, they have done an outstanding job,” said Heynckes.
 
With one eye on Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg against Sevilla, in which Bayern hold a slender 2-1 lead, Heynckes gambled by resting his stars.
 
Top scorer Robert Lewandowski, plus Thomas Mueller, Thiago Alcantara, Mats Hummels and Javi Martinez all started on the bench in Augsburg.
 
Sevilla would have been encouraged by the comedy of errors in Bayern's defence that led to Augsburg's opening goal.
 
Jerome Boateng lingered over a back pass and Colombian forward Sergio Cordova robbed him of possession, sending Boateng tumbling to the turf. 
 
Outstanding James
 
Cordova's shot was blocked by Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, but the ball ricocheted up into Suele's face and into Bayern's goal to stun the visitors on 18 minutes.
 
However Munich hit back to lead 2-1 by half-time. Joshua Kimmich picked out the unmarked Tolisso to head them level on 32 minutes and Bayern then laid on a top-class goal to take the lead at the WWK Arena.
 
Kimmich was again involved, firing a pass across goal after combining with Robben for Juan Bernat, who backheeled the ball which James fired home seven minutes before the break.
 
The Colombian then ensured the title was heading to Munich, hooking the ball back into play at the far post for Robben to drill his shot inside the near post on 62 minutes.
 
Ribery celebrated his 35th birthday with a cameo appearance for the final eight minutes before Wagner headed in Bayern's fourth.
 
The Bavarian giants will formally lift the Bundesliga shield after the final matches on May 12.
 
By AFP's Ryland James

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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