VALENCIA: Gareth Bale provided more return on his World Cup €100m fee last summer when he struck a magnificent late winner for Real Madrid over Barcelona in the Spanish cup final.
The victory will help shore up Madrid morale ahead of their Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich next week and their pursuit of the Spanish league title.
Real had taken an early lead when Angel Di Maria fired into the bottom corner but Barca levelled through Bartra’s second-half header.
Bale, the former Tottenham star, had been criticisied for not delivering in Madrid’s big matches against Barcelona since arriving at the Bernabeu last summer.
But, without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo alongside him, the 24-year-old took centre stage with a moment of inspiration which swung a delicately-balanced final in favour of Carlo Ancelotti’s side at a crucial stage.
With Barcelona pressing for a winner, Real countered quickly with pace – a tactic which they had employed throughout – to snatch the first silverware of the Spanish season.
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, a largely anonymous figure, lost possession in the Madrid penalty area before Fabio Coentrao launched the attack with a long ball down the left touchline towards Bale.
Bale knocked the ball into the empty Barcelona half and, despite Bartra’s best efforts to lever him off the ball, managed to keep his feet before squeezing past Pinto at his near post.
Coach Tata Martino will come under further pressure now as his first season at the Nou Camp also promises to be his last.
Martino was tactically outwitted by Real counterpart Ancelotti – for the first time this season after Barca won at both the Nou Camp and Bernabeu – as the Italian’s players carried out his instructions to the letter. Madrid were organised and committed as they defended resolutely in numbers before utilising the pace of Bale and Di Maria on the break.