Bale turns on the afterburners to torch Barca

Gareth Bale was the hero with a stunning late winner to secure the Copa del Rey for Real Madrid in a thrilling triumph over Barcelona.

Andy West
by Andy West
17th April 2014

article:17th April 2014

All white on the night: Real Madrid players celebrate with the Copa del Rey.
All white on the night: Real Madrid players celebrate with the Copa del Rey.

Gareth Bale was the hero with a stunning late winner to secure the Copa del Rey for Real Madrid in a thrilling triumph over Barcelona.

Bale’s memorable match-winning goal was a superb individual effort as he raced 50 yards at full pace before forcing a low shot inside the near post to spark joyous scenes of celebration.


At that point, extra time had seemed inevitable after Marc Bartra’s header cancelled out an opener from Angel Di Maria.

However, the Welshman wrote his own place in the Madrid history books and with each passing game Bale’s Dh507.5m price tag becomes less of a talking point.

Much of the discussion is now focused on Barcelona, and specifically Tata Martino. It was a third straight defeat for the club and with a distinct lack of energy and purpose showed by the Catalan side, it raises further questions about the Argentine’s ability to motivate his team.

Predictably, the game started at a ferocious pace and referee Mateu Lahoz needed just three minutes to show his first yellow card after Isco fouled Neymar.

Once the early hostilities were out of the way, Madrid proceeded to look the most dangerous team and first threatened when Bale twice sparked into life, first receiving Isco’s pass and advancing down the left to fire across the face of goal, before turning neatly in the box and having his shot blocked by Javier Mascherano.

It was no surprise when Madrid took the lead with a goal involving all four of their attacking players.

Isco started it, winning the ball in midfield and finding Bale, who in turn passed to Karim Benzema and the Frenchman sprang Di Maria into space.

He advanced into the area to shoot low left-footed, and the ball squeezed in despite a strong hand from Jose Pinto.

Barcelona had little to offer as they attempted to bounce back, with a low ball across the face of goal from Cesc Fabregas and a Jordi Alba header straight at Iker Casillas the best they could muster.

The quiet Lionel Messi had two attempts towards the end of the first half as Barca started to look more threatening, shooting weakly at Casillas and then dragging a 20- yard effort wide.

Madrid continued to look dangerous, though, and the excellent Di Maria created another opportunity as he cut back a low cross which Benzema dragged wide.

Early in the second half Madrid continued to threaten, with Bale cutting inside from the right and beating two men but stabbing his shot into the side-netting and then firing a fierce volley from the edge of the box narrowly over the bar.

The game continued to flow from end to end with both teams having chances, as Bartra advanced from defence and had a long-range strike awkwardly pushed aside by Casillas while Benzema hit the base of the post with a low shot from the left.

Then came Bartra’s equaliser as he was left unmarked from a Xavi corner and showed great dexterity to stretch awkwardly and loop a superb header into the net.

In the final stages it appeared that Barca were the more likely winners, although Luka Modric nearly won it with a long-range strike against the outside of the post.

Then Bale intervened, racing down the left wing, past Bartra, and showing incredible stamina to maintain his run before stabbing a shot past Pinto at the near post.

Barca fought back hard in three minutes of stoppage time and came agonisingly close to an injury-time leveller as Neymar pounced on an opportunity inside the area, but his fierce strike crashed against the right post and bounced to safety.


 


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