Gareth Bale scored a sensational solo effort five minutes from time to help Real Madrid to a 2-1 victory over Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final in Valencia.
The Welshman’s stunning effort secured the first title of Carlo Ancelotti’s reign as boss at the Santiago Bernabeu and went some way to paying off a large chunk of the 91 million euros that Los Blancos paid for him last summer.
For Barcelona, the defeat meant the end of any chance of silverware, and huge question marks hanging over Tata Martino as manager of the Catalan side.
The Mestalla was electric, with both sets of fans creating an incredible noise inside the stadium. And the game itself started at lightning pace, with Barcelona’s Jordi Alba racing into the area and causing problems for the Madrid defence.
With much expectation on his shoulders given Ronaldo’s absence, Bale began the game brightly, and before the 10-minute mark he had been set free down the left and flashed an effort just wide of Pinto’s post.
Madrid deservedly took the lead on the 10 minute mark. Dani Alves was disposed in midfield by Isco, whose pass found Bale. The Welshman in turn found Karim Benzema, who set Angel di Maria running free. Barcelona keeper Pinto got a hand to his effort but it wasn’t enough as the ball bobbled across the line.
The goal was a setback for Martino’s men, and they looked shellshocked. But they eventually grew into the game, enjoying more possession. Somewhat puzzling though was the tactic of crossing the ball from wide areas – Leo Messi and Neymar would never stand a chance against Pepe and Sergio Ramos.
Something would have to change for Barcelona at the break, and perhaps Martino had some strong words at the interval as they were out early and waiting for Madrid.
Bale continued to be busy for Los Blancos and caused Barca plenty of problems with his pace. And on the 70 minute mark the Welshman thought he’d won it for Madrid, meeting a corner to head home past Pinto. But rather controversially the goal was ruled out for a foul,
Just a minute later, Barca were equal. Marca Bartra went up for a corner and sent a brilliant header past Casillas.
Barcelona then enjoyed plenty of possession and good chances, but the Real defence held firm. With the game heading to extra time, Bale collected pass on half way and carried the ball into the area to sent Madridistas everywhere into wild celebration.