Gareth Bale gave Real Madrid fans their first real taste of what he is capable of with two goals and two assists against Sevilla on Wednesday, after which the world’s most expensive player said he believes he has turned a corner.
The 100 million euro (US$138 million) Wales winger’s season has been disrupted by injury, but his performance in the 7-3 romp at the Santiago Bernabeu showcased his strength, pace and his lethal left foot, suggesting that he is close to full fitness again after recovering from a thigh strain.
Playing on the right of a three-man frontline with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, Bale opened the scoring with a fierce strike into the top corner, added a second with a deflected free-kick and then set up his fellow forwards after powerful runs in from the flank.
“It was important for my form,” Bale told reporters after coming through the full 90 minutes of a match for the first time since joining Real from Tottenham Hotspur. “After not having a normal pre-season, I have to keep building rhythm so I can give my best.”
Bale should get another chance to impress when Real play at struggling city neighbors Rayo Vallecano de Madrid tomorrow.
Never one to be upstaged, Ronaldo grabbed a hat-trick on Wednesday, while Benzema helped himself to two goals to mark the first time in almost 50 years that 10 goals were scored in a La Liga match at the Bernabeu.
“It was quite a strange game with the amount of goals and everything that happened, some of the decisions, but we got the three points,” Real midfielder Xabi Alonso, who came on as a second-half substitute after a lengthy injury absence, told Spanish television.
“Personally, I am very pleased to be back because these five months have been a big challenge,” the Spain international added. “Little by little, I will pick up the pace and start to be useful to the team again.”
Sevilla played the final 15 minutes with 10 men after midfielder Stephane M’Bia was shown a second yellow card for catching substitute Luka Modric with a flailing arm.
Real were apparently flying when Isco won a penalty converted by Ronaldo five minutes later, but the visitors stunned the home fans into silence with two quick goals.
Ivan Rakitic struck from the penalty spot in the 38th and Carlos Bacca finished off a sweeping move two minutes later to make it 3-2 at the break.
The second half was equally eventful, with Bale setting up first Benzema and then Ronaldo before Rakitic curled a superb shot into the top corner for 5-3.
In a frantic 10 minutes, Ronaldo completed his 18th La Liga hat-trick with a deflected shot, then gave away a penalty that Rakitic fired over the bar before M’Bia was dismissed to end any hopes of a Sevilla comeback.
Sevilla are 10th on 13 points, the same as 11th-placed Valencia who surrendered a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 at home to UD Almeria, giving the bottom club their first win of the campaign.
Real Sociedad also blew a lead when they went 2-0 ahead at Real Valladolid before the mid-table clash ended 2-2, while CA Osasuna thumped fellow strugglers Rayo 3-1.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real are third in La Liga after 11 games after an unconvincing start, two points behind Atletico Madrid, who were to play Granada yesterday before hosting Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Unbeaten champions Barcelona are four clear of Atletico at the top and will look to stretch their advantage with a win at home to RCD Espanyol today.