Gareth Bale stepped up to the plate in Ronaldo’s absence to score the winning goal in the Copa Del Rey Final and net the club their first silverware this season.
With Barcelona coming off a troubled spell in recent matches having just lost to Granada, Real Madrid were seen to be slight favorites to win. RM’s Coach, Ancelotti was aiming to get his first piece of silverware in Spain after doing so in England, France and Italy and his opposite number, Tata Martino was hoping to kick-start Barca’s struggling season. Both sides fielded 4-3-3 formations with the main focus being on Bale and Neymar, playing for Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, who have failed to consistently meet their hefty price tags.
The former of the two started energetically, with a whizzing shot from his left boot just drifting wide of the far post on the 5th minute.
While Barcelona failed to trouble stand-in Casillas’s goal, they dominated possession, reducing Real’s control of the ball to 32%. Often reduced to crossing the ball with no avail, Barcelona gave the ball away, leaving them wide open to a counter attack from the brilliant Di Maria.
A neat passing move set the Argentinean winger free with only Alba running back to mark him. A quick dummy then led to a low shot across goal from Di Maria, with Pinto scrambling to reach the ball but only to tip it the trickling ball into the side-netting of the goal.
The goal was like a shot in the arm for the Catalan side, as they quickly threatened the goal three times with quick succession to try and equalize. Jordi Alba nodded a header towards the centre of the goal and Casillas gladly caught it; this summed up Barca’s threat in the first half.
The Catalan giants really livened up in the second half, subbing on Adriano and Pedro to add some further attacking prowess to the side. An unlikely source of the equalizer was almost supplied from centre back, Marc Bartra, hitting a drive from just outside of the box, stinging the palms of Casillas.
The defender seemed determined to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Xavi hit a looping corner in from the left, and after losing Pepe, Bartra stretched to direct a header into the corner of the net, leaving Iker no chance.
For a while it seemed that the new found momentum would pay off but Luka Modric threatened the Barcelona goal with a narrow drive kissing the outside of Pinto’s left hand post. This seemed to foreshadow Real’s threat on the counter minutes later.
A through ball from Coentrao put Bale one on one with Bartra shouldering alongside. The Welshman flicked the goal ahead of the defender and put the afterburners on to motor ahead and with Bartra applying pressure, Bale poked the ball through past Pinto to send the Madrista half into ecstasy.
A final twist in the game was almost gift wrapped to Neymar in the opposite end, after being put through on goal with only minutes to go, the Brazillian frustratingly prodded the ball onto the post and Casillas was there to meet the rebound. The match finished shortly after.
Gareth Bale was greeted with hugs and congratulations from his teammates as his goal secured his first piece of major silverware in his career.