The 85000 capacity Bernabeu stadium in Madrid came alive on November 30 as fans forgot their favorite footballer and Real Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo for 90 minutes. The occasion was Real’s home game against Valladolid on Saturday night and what a game it turned out to be for the locals. On display that day was Real’s latest sensation and world’s most expensive football recruit to date, Gareth Bale. With Ronaldo not playing on account of a strained muscle, the game was completely focused on Bale. But the famous Portuguese was present at Bernabeu on match day and television cameras showed him watching the proceedings as intently as the screaming supporters. Keeping him company was his Russian girlfriend and model Irina Shayk and she was a far more important reason than football for TV cameras zooming in that area, time and time again, as the match began.
But everything was soon forgotten in the frenzy of Bale scoring his first hat-trick as Real Madrid completely outplayed Valladolid 4-0. The opener came in the 33rd minute, when Angel di Maria’s lovely cross appeared to go in vain because Valladolid goalie, Diego Marino parried it away. But close by somewhere in goal area, an alert Gareth Bale made no mistake in picking and heading the rebound into the goal. Just three minutes later, Bale provided a fantastic assist to top shooter Karim Benzema, who made the score 2-0. As luck would have it, Bale’s second goal of the match also came off a rebound. A Marcelo cross found Valladolid’s Carlos Pena, who attempted to clear the ball away. But Pena only succeeded in making the ball reach Bale, who gleefully caressed the ball into the goal with his right foot. Bale’s hat-trick was completed, when Real’s Brazilian star Marcelo forced himself from the left flank in what appeared to be a solo attempt. But when he saw Gareth Bale in a better goal-scoring position, he slid the ball towards the Welshman. It was the easiest of chances, which came Bale’s way on a silver platter. A powerful left footer from Bale shook the net. After completing his hat-trick, Bale ran towards Marcelo and embraced him. The Brazilian was only too glad to accept Bale’s gratitude.
Real’s dominance of Valladolid was so complete that Ronaldo was not missed at all. The victory brought Real within three points of FC Barcelona and Atletico, the joint table toppers until Saturday. But yesterday at San Mames, Athletic Bilbao scored a 1-0 victory over Barca, who played without their star Lionel Messi and expected Neymar to act out Messi’s goal-scoring part. That didn’t happen. With Messi still nursing an injury, this was Barcelona second straight loss after they were beaten 2-1 by Ajax in a Champions League game, five days ago. Yesterday’s loss to Athletic Bilbao means Barca are still tied with Atletico as joint toppers with 40 points with Real standing at 37.
Real’s emphatic victory on Saturday has allowed Gareth Bale to take his goal-tally to eight in seven games. But he is still being watched because, try as he might, the focus from his expensive price-tag won’t go away any time soon. It is another matter that Real boss Carlo Ancelotti chose to insist that Bale’s goal scoring form had become evident and his adaption period had finished. Ancelotti said that Bale was oozing confidence and doing well.
When the match ended, Real fans in Bernabeu were on their feet to applaud Bale, who became the second British player in League’s history to score a hat-trick. Gary Linekar had done that for FC Barcelona in 1987.