Brilliant Bale stakes claim for Champions League final place

The Welsh winger scored twice in an emphatic win at the Santiago Bernabeu and came close to a hat-trick in Los Blancos’ last home match this season

Gareth Bale is not about to give up on his Real Madrid career and, on Saturday’s evidence, he could yet win a starting spot to face Liverpool in the Champions League final on May 26th.

The Welsh winger has come in for some severe criticism this season from fans and also the media in Spain. And there looked to be no way back for the 28-year-old after he was hauled off at half-time in the 3-1 loss at home to Juventus.

After failing to feature in the line-up in either leg against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals, however, coach Zinedine Zidane insisted his player would be useful in the closing weeks of the season.

And he was right. A surprise starter in the Clasico clash at Camp Nou, Bale could have been sent off late in the first half, but ended up rescuing a point for Real against Barcelona as he curled home a superb strike with his left foot in the closing minutes.

Suspended for the midweek loss to Sevilla, Bale returned to the team against Celta Vigo at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday – Real Madrid’s last fixture at home in 2017-18.


He was clearly in the mood to impress. The former Tottenham midfielder set Real Madrid on their way to a 6-0 win over Celta as he galloped forward and beat Sergio Alvaro with a low shot that went in off the post after 13 minutes.

And he added another with an even better goal after half an hour when he ran down the right, beat Jonny with an autopase (a ball to himself) before curling a powerful shot past Sergio from an angle.

It was superb stuff and the two goals mean he has scored four doubles for Real Madrid in La Liga this season. In total, he has 18 goals now in 2017-18 and 15 of those in the Primera Division. Considering the bad press he receives, those numbers are not bad at all.

In search of his hat-trick, Bale popped up all over the pitch and it almost arrived in the second half when he saw a header well saved by Sergio. Ultimately, it was not to be, but the Welshman was later taken off to generous applause from the Bernabeu crowd – something he has not always received here.

Isco also scored a lovely goal in the first half, with further strikes from Achraf Hakimi, Toni Kroos and a Sergi Gomez own-goal making it a completely one-sided affair in the end – a morale-boosting result as Real look to finish La Liga on a high and head to Kiev in search of a third straight Champions League crown.

And Bale, with four goals in his last three appearances, is surely back in contention for a place in the XI against Liverpool. He had looked completely out of the picture just a couple of weeks ago, but against Barcelona and now versus Celta, the 28-year-old has produced a timely reminder of just what he can do.

Will it be enough to earn him a starting spot in Kiev? Time will tell, but his return to form ahead of the biggest game of the season is certainly good news for Zidane and Real Madrid.


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