The Night Bale Silenced Barcelona

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By Tonte Davies

The final of the Kings Cup popularly known as ‘Copa del Rey,’ had all the hype commonly associated with it. No one [possibly]imagined what – and how – the result would turn out but the belief was, it could go either way. And either way indeed it went. La Liga El Clasico giants Barcelona and Real Madrid locked horns on a night which had the usual animosity.

For a game which is regularly about two of the world’s best football players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, this was different. Ronaldo was visibly absent due to injury having been left on the sidelines; a precautionary decision by Carlo Ancelotti. The gaffer would prefer the playmaker is fit ahead of Real Madrid’s Champions League semi-final clash against Bayern Munich next week. Lionel Messi on the other hand, was available but for intelligent tactic, he seemed to be absent during the game.

However, the night had the imprint of record summer signing Gareth Bale than other Real Madrid players. “…A much stronger case could be made for backing Gareth Bale to find the back of the net,” said Phil Kitromildes of goal.com, as regards placing a bet on Bale. And Bale did not disappoint. Angel Di Maria opened scoring for Real Madrid in 11 minutes from a buildup which had signatures of Isco, Kareem Benzema, Bale and Luka Modric. The goal saw Barcelona goalkeeper Pinto with a touch of the ball, beaten by a Di Maria low-ground ball.

Subsequent and intermittent attacks by los Blancos, as Real Madrid is fondly called, were repelled by the defence of the Blaugrana (aka Barcelona). Not that Barcelona did not have a go at Real Madrid’s goal often times; with their usual technique to hold the ball and make short passes, the Barcelona squad were threatening in front of goal. Shots were either deflected by Madrid’s defence, parried by Casillas who was in goal or shot out wide.

Expectedly, Neymar made frightening touches with Madrid’s 18 yard and so did Iniesta, Xavi and Messi, but all efforts lacked the aggression of a bull dog. Barcelona’s break would come 66 minutes in the second half. A corner kick taken by Xavi found Marc Bartra a free man to head the ball in for goal. Casillas was clearly beaten and for a moment afterwards, Blancos were left distraught with the Blaugrana in control and the game heading for extra time.

The match had all its nuances and high emotions but not the kind of emotion that would change the tilt of the result. Receiving the ball from Coentrao, Bale initially impeded by Bartra, displayed “blistering pace” to beat the defender to score an 85 minute goal. Barcelona looked like they could level the result through Neymar but for a lack of composure, it did not happen. The Welshman was to be howbeit temporarily, the ‘King of Madrid’ from an injured Cristiano Ronaldo. Carlo Ancelotti sums it up saying “Bale scored an important goal at a critical moment.” The game ended 1-2 in favour of Real Madrid.

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