Gareth's late 'Bale' out
Welshman scores winner to hand Real Madrid Copa del Rey
VALENCIA, Spain (AP) -- Gareth Bale's late gallop and goal sealed Real Madrid its 19th Copa del Rey title yesterday in a thrilling 2-1 win over Barcelona, as the Welshman filled the void left by the injured Cristiano Ronaldo to claim his first career trophy.
Ronaldo's extra-time heroics gave Madrid the 2011 Copa del Rey title at Barcelona's expense, and in his absence, Bale scored in the 85th minute to make sure Madrid repeated the feat at the same Mestalla Stadium with his first goal in three "clasico" matches.
Angel Di Maria scored Madrid's opener from a counterattack in the 11th minute of a first half Madrid dominated over a Barcelona side that lacked ideas in attack and was slow to recover in defence.
Barcelona defender Marc Bartra, who was cleared from injury at the last minute, levelled against the run of play in the 67th by heading in from a corner kick to ruin goalkeeper Iker Casilla's record run of not conceding in the tournament.
The goal energised Barcelona and snapped Lionel Messi into action after an apathetic first hour, and the game's final 15 minutes became a frenetic back-and-forth.
But with the game hanging in the balance, Bale got the winner when he exploded down the left side of the pitch, even running out of bounds to avoid Sergio Busquets, before he raced into the area and rolled the ball under goalkeeper Jose Pinto.
Barcelona, however, still had one last chance, only for Neymar's shot to hit the upright in the 90th.
After not winning the cup competition between 1993 and 2011, Madrid have won it twice in the last four years.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti won his first trophy for Madrid and first "clasico" win after losing the first two meetings with Barcelona, and his team will now focus on overtaking Atletico Madrid in the league and their Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich.
The loss is a setback for a Barcelona unable to add to their record 26 cups and a major blow to coach Gerard Martino, with the Catalan club eliminated from Europa and their domestic league title defence in danger.
Barcelona will now have to catch both Madrid and Atletico with only five rounds left in the Spanish league to make sure they don't end the season without a major piece of silverware for the first time since the arrival of Pep Guardiola in 2008-09.
VALENCIA, Spain -- Real Madrid goal-scorer Gareth Bale (right) vies with Barcelona's Brazilian defender Dani Alves during the Spanish Copa del Rey final at the Mestalla stadium here, yesterday. Real Madrid won 2-1. (PHOTOS: AFP)
VALENCIA, Spain -- Real Madrid defender Pepe (centre) vies with Barcelona defender Adriano (left) and midfielder Javier Mascherano during the Spanish Copa del Rey at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia here, yesterday.
VALENCIA, Spain -- Real Madrid's goalkeeper Iker Casillas celebrates his team's second goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey final against FC Barcelona at the Mestalla stadium here, yesterday.