Man of the match Gareth Bale scored a stunning goal to earn Real Madrid their 19th Copa del Rey title against Barcelona on Wednesday. After Marc Bartra cancelled out Angel Di Maria’s opener, Bale stormed out of the left-wing, running half the length of the pitch before poking the ball past Barcelona goalkeeper Jose Pinto in the 85thminute. Bale’s outstanding run saw him leave Bartra for dead with his pace, before he produced a composed finish to cap an outstanding performance as Madrid won the trophy.
Neymar, who struggled throughout the 228th edition the of famous derby, hit the post in the 89th minute as Barcelona fell to defeat that signals the end to a disastrous week for the Catalan giants and their under-fire manager Gerardo Martino. First they were knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals against Atletico Madrid, who won the second-leg 1-0, making it 2-1 on aggregate last Wednesday, before suffering a surprise 1-0 defeat to Granada on Saturday, which look to have ended their Liga title defense.
Their recent setback means that they look now to finish the season without any piece of silverware for the first time since 2007-08, one of the reasons why coach Frank Rijkaard was sacked. For Madrid, this was Carlo Ancelotti’s first trophy in charge of the club and he will be hoping to add two more by winning La Liga and the Champions League.
As expected, Real Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo was absent with knee and thigh injuries, but Sergio Ramos recovered from a neck injury to start for Ancelotti’s side. While on the other side, Barcelona coach Martino had hinted the return of Carles Puyol would be forthcoming from a knee injury, but the captain was left on the bench, as fellow centre-back Bartra returned from a hamstring strain.
The tension in the match was predictably high – Isco was booked for a challenge on Neymar within three minutes of the start – and Real Madrid continued to pour forward, with Bale’s second shot in as many minutes going behind from a corner. Di Maria, then broke the deadlock in the 11th minute, finishing with aplomb following a quick counterattack that involved Isco, Bale and Karim Benzema.
Di Maria fired an angled right-footed effort through the legs of Jordi Alba and Barcelona goalkeeper Pinto found the strike too hard to handle, as he was unable to stop the ball from finding the net into its bottom corner.
Barcelona’s first chance came when Neymar and Pepe clashed, and were booked, as Jordi Alba nodded straight at Madrid shot-stopper Iker Casillas, and the defender (Alba) then got back to superbly block Isco’s shot after Bale’s smart pass. Lionel Messi took his chances shooting wide from the goal, from 20 yards before the break.
When the play resumed, Alba was replaced by Adriano, but Barca still looked sluggish, as Bale shot into the side netting before firing one over six minutes later.
The ineffective Cesc Fabregas was then replaced by Pedro, who did little to stem the flow as Benzema’s strike was touched onto the outside of the post by Pinto, before Bale had a goal that was disallowed for offside after the goalkeeper had charged off his line from the corner.
Less than 60 seconds after this incident, the ball was in the back of Madrid’s net, with a Bartra header. Bartra looked responsible, with the young defender losing his marker Pepe, and rising highest to head Xavi’s corner into the net in the 68th minute. It was a perfectly placed header, but the parity lasted only for 17 minutes.
Gareth Bale was initially impeded by Bartra but displayed his speed to storm ahead of his marker and from there the defender, reluctant to foul the winger and get a penalty, could only watch as Pinto was beaten with a toe-poked finish with the ball going into the net.
Time still remained for Barcelona to grab the equalizer, but Neymar lacked the necessary composure with a chance in the 89th minute, firing onto the post after he had got it behind the Madrid defense and even passed the ball through goalkeeper Casillas.
When the final whistle blew, Madrid fans and players exhaled a sigh of relief and enjoyed their first piece of silverware this season after a trophyless season last year.
This certainly makes the Real Madrid fans and staff believe that the €100 million signing of Gareth Bale was money well spent if he continues to help bringing trophies to the club.