Once upon a time… two of the World’s biggest teams gave us another chapter of the most heated rivalry of all time. The great clasico would decide the winner of the 2014 Copa Del Rey. Real Madrid was coming in without Cristiano Ronaldo or Marcelo while Barcelona was without their iconic center back duo of Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol.
Regardless of whether it’s in Copa Del Rey or in a perfect world, a Champions League final, the Clasicos are always played with high intensity and nerves causing every fan to stop breathing for 90 minutes. The final meeting between the two in the 2013-2014 season was not an exception. Barcelona had swept Real Madrid in both La Liga meetings but this match represented a trophy.
Los Blancos were dominant from the start. Angel Di Maria and Gareth Bale put on a world class performance in the first half as they consistently caused problems for the blaugrana defense . Barcelona were unable to get their offense started and were forced to defend early in the game. In the 10th minute, Madrid finally got their deserving goal when a brilliant counter attack between Isco, Bale and Benzema who played Di Maria a magical through ball and the argentine simply outpaced a semi-injured Jordi Alba and shot the ball past an-aging Jose Manuel Pinto to put Madrid up 1-0.
The second half was more of the same. Real Madrid kept creating dangerous opportunities and Barcelona simply could not control Di Maria who was simply too quick and skillful. A man of the match like performance for the argentine who filled in perfectly for Cristiano Ronaldo and the merengues didn’t skip a beat.
In the 67th minute, Real Madrid was robbed from a perfectly legal goal which would put them up 2-0 and would most likely close the curtain on the game. After a bunch of headers inside the Barcelona box, keeper Jose Manuel Pinto and Gareth Bale collide as they go up for the ball and the referee would hesitate on calling the foul on the welshmen thus disallowing the goal. However, instant replay showed that Bale went straight up for the ball and it was Pinto who crashed into him.
Barcelona’s good luck grew even more when in the 68th minute, 4th string centre back Marc Bartra lost his marker and found himself alone inside the box during a corner and perfectly placed the ball in the far post past Iker Casillas. Bartra, who had barely got the medical clearance and wasn’t fully fit, had scored his first goal in a Clasico and gave Barcelona an undeserving equalizer.
They say you either die a legend or you live to see yourself become a villain. For Marc Bartra, that night in the Mestalla, he went from savior to villain in a span of less than 20 minutes. As both teams began to prepare for extra time, Gareth Bale came in and showed why he deserved the millions that was spent on him.
Fabio Coentrao played him a perfect through ball just inside Barcelona’s own half and the rest was history. Bale, with one touch, played the ball past Marc Bartra and managed to run around him and simply outpaced the young defender. Pinto stayed on his line and, for some reason, decided not to come out and Bale simply drilled the ball to the six-yard box where he tucked it between the keepers legs and into the back of the net.
A title winning goal for who was then the most expensive player in the World. A World class goal to commemorate a World class performance by Bale and his teammates and a Cristiano-less Real Madrid won their second Copa Del Rey in four years.
For Madrid fans, that goal was everything. The way Bale outpaced Bartra and simply made him look foolish and scored the late game-winner against Barcelona. The cherry on top of a great performance. Meanwhile for Barcelona fans, that goal was a complete nightmare that consistently gives them migraines. Why didn’t Bartra foul him? Why didn’t Pinto come out? So many unanswered questions for fans who saw their team go trophyless for the first time since 2007.
With the Clasico coming up on Saturday, we expect to see another legendary game. Perhaps Bale will score his second Clasico goal. But who knows, Bartra isn’t there to let him run past him anymore….