Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Bale's magical touch leaves Barcelona in ruins

Barcelona 1 Real Madrid 2

Cup glory: Gareth Bale and his Real Madrid team mates celebrate last night's Copa del Rey triumph over Barcelona at the Mestalla

Gareth Bale scored the most important goal of his career to win the Copa del Rey for Real Madrid, netting the decisive goal against fierce rivals Barcelona in the final at the Mestalla.

The most expensive player in the world raced from the halfway line down the left wing before poking the ball past Jose Manuel Pinto to restore Madrid's lead with five minutes remaining, after Marc Bartra had cancelled out Angel Di Maria's first-half opener.

The Welshman had produced his best performance in his third game against Barcelona but had failed to find the net, but his guile paid off as his stunning late strike gave Madrid their 19th Copa del Rey, and the first trophy under coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Ancelotti was forced to re-jig his team due to the continued absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, opting for Isco to complement Bale and Karim Benzema.

Isco was carded after three minutes for cutting down Neymar but responded with a quick through-ball which allowed Bale to attack down the left, the Welshman shooting across the face of goal and just wide.

Just a couple of minutes later Madrid took the lead through a precise counter. Isco held the ball up in midfield before squaring to Bale, who found Benzema. The Frenchman played Di Maria in and the Argentinian surged into the box to shoot into the bottom corner.

Barca could not mount much of a response before the break. Dani Alves got on the end of a cross from Jordi Alba but headed straight at Casillas, while both of Xavi's attempts were off target.

Bale almost provided a sensational start to the second half, bursting his way past two Barca defenders only to shoot the wrong side of the near post.

The Welshman then tried his luck from outside the area, striking the ball with the outside of his foot, but the ball sailed over.

Barca were impotent for much of the second half, unable to breach Madrid's defence, which was aided by vital interventions by forwards Di Maria and Isco.

Barca then won a corner from which Bartra rose to power a header into the top left-hand corner and beyond Casillas.

Barca were rejuvenated and attacked with intent, although were unable to test Casillas.

If anyone looked more likely to score it was the Catalans but with five minutes to go, Bale won the match with his rampaging run, racing past Bartra before calmly beating Pinto.

The game almost took another twist in stoppage time, Neymar smashing the post but the ball landing safely in the hands of Casillas.

But that was the Catalans' last attempt, and Madrid, beaten in last year's final by rivals Atletico, were able to enjoy a happier outcome this time around.

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