With Cristiano Ronaldo unable to play in the Copa del Rey final due to injury, Gareth Bale, one of the most expensive footballers in the world, stepped up and scored a later winner for Real Madrid with a tremendous burst of speed. And he did it against Barcelona, no less.
Angel Di Maria opened the scoring in the 11th minute for Real Madrid and the lead held into the second half. Marc Bartra did come up with an equalizer for Barca in the 68th minute, but his night would soon get much, much worse.
In the 88th minute, Bale knocked the ball out in front of himself as he battled with Bartra near the touchline. The Barca defender forced Bale off the pitch, but this prompted the Welshman to turn on his exceptional speed, making Bartra look like he was running in sand as Bale beat him to the ball and scored the winner. Cristiano Ronaldo partied in the stands like every other Madridista watching and the Barcelona fans made their feelings known by giving Bale the finger as he celebrated with his back to them.
With that goal, Real Madrid sealed a 2-1 victory and gave Barcelona their first three-match losing streak since 2003. This also marks Real Madrid's first Copa del Rey title since Sergio Ramos dropped the trophy under the team bus in 2011. And to top it all off, Bale also gave the club the first return on the €90 million-plus ($124 million) spent to acquire him from Tottenham over the summer.
For Barcelona, this ended the club's best chance at winning a trophy this season after getting knocked out of the Champions League and suffering a big loss in La Liga in their previous two matches. It's been a frustrating, injury filled campaign for Lionel Messi and manager Tata Martino seems increasingly likely to be let go after just one season.
Of course, Real Madrid didn't win anything last season before parting ways with Jose Mourinho and now they're in contention for the treble with one trophy already in the cabinet and a Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich on the horizon. So while things are looking bleak for Barcelona right now, Real Madrid are proving that fortunes can change very quick. For a price.
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