For the past three matches, Real Madrid were tipped to lack a talisman with the injuries to star men Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema but that has not happened with Welshman Gareth Bale standing tall, literally, to ensure the Spanish giants stay in the La Liga race.
Bale has stood up to be counted in the absence of injured three-time World Player of the Year Ronaldo, getting the winning goals against Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad, completely transforming his image.
Whilst his talent was doubted by few, the character, personality and leadership shown by Bale in Ronaldo’s absence has surprised many in Madrid.
The goal against Real Sociedad was the Welshman’s ninth headed goal in the league this season, more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues, and earned Madrid the points despite a frustrating afternoon against the side who beat Barcelona earlier in April.
With Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema injured, it was again up to Bale to lead the line, with coach Zinedine Zidane making five changes after the 0-0 at Manchester City in the Champions League semi-final in midweek.
Bale missed several chances before finally breaking the deadlock with 10 minutes remaining, leaping at the near post to glance Vazquez’s cross into the top corner for his 19th goal of the league campaign.
Bale’s contribution has helped Real to not only stay in the race but also keep within touching distance with the leading pack, pushing Atletico and Barcelona to the wire.
Zinedine Zidane, the Real Madrid manager captured Bale’s importance in very few but crucial words after the win over Real Sociedad “I am happy for him because he has had problems this season with injury, but when he is fit you notice,” the Frenchman said.
With Ronaldo still a doubt for the Champions League return against Manchester City on Wednesday, Los Blancos can still look to the availability of Bale with good hope.