Real Madrid head coach Santiago Solari has challenged Gareth Bale to ally consistency with an undoubted attacking prowess after his “perfect” trio of goals earned a 3-1 semi-final win against Kashima Antlers in the Club World Cup.
Bale, 29, emphatically struck three times either side of half-time in Abu Dhabi and was then removed as a precaution on the hour mark because of a draining ankle issue. This hat-trick acts as the highlight of a campaign in which he’d previously struggled to carry the mantle left by the summer transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.
“We all expect these performances from him,” said Solari, whose competition holders now meet host-club Al Ain on Saturday as they chase a fourth global crown in five editions. “Every Sunday, every Wednesday, every time we play.
“It is not easy to score three goals every game. But it is not just the goals – it is the commitment.
“He had it in the last few games. Today, everything was perfect.
“He could achieve this as he was committed before.”
Kashima offered familiarity for Los Blancos, courtesy of 2016’s dramatic CWC final between them that was settled by Ronaldo’s hat-trick.
Imminent opponents Al Ain, however, represent the unknown.
The Arabian Gulf League winners have caused shocks against Esperance de Tunis and River Plate – the club for whom winger Solari made his playing debut in 1996. He predicted a testing match against them.
“I expect them to be competitive, of course,” said the 42-year-old.
“No one can arrive into the Club World Cup’s final without being competitive. They scored many goals, every game.
“They beat the team from New Zealand [Team Wellington] and then they beat River Plate. They are in the final because they deserve it.
“We have to be as competitive as we were today to win the trophy.”
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