Gareth Bale reacts to his game-winning goal in his first Copa del Rey final.
The Welshman ran half the length of the field to score the winner five minutes from time and subject Barcelona a third consecutive defeat in all competitions which leaves them on the verge of failing to win a major trophy for the first time in six years.
“When you look at the age of the players in this team it is evident that Barcelona has a long road still to run and with a lot better results than this year,” said Martino.
Madrid had gone in front after just ten minutes when Angel Di Maria raced onto Karim Benzema’s through ball and his low shot went through Barca goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto. Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has always been under appreciated, but we are now seeing his value not that he is injured. If Barca cannot sign a new goalkeeper during the summer transfer window, they will not be winning anything next season with Pinto in goal.
The Portuguese star has missed Real’s last three games due to the problem and Ancelotti said he didn’t want to risk him with their UEFA Champions League semi-final, first leg against Bayern Munich just a week away. “Cristiano is not available because we don’t want to take risks and we have other very important games to come this season,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
However, the build up to the game for both sides has been disrupted by injuries to key players. FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo is a major doubt for Real due to a hamstring injury suffered in his side’s 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund two weeks ago. The Portuguese hasn’t played in three games since and is unlikely to be risked with Real’s UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich just seven days away.
Aritz Aduriz scored at the start of each half as Ernesto Valverde’s side made light work of the visitors, and Ander Herrera hit the third goal with half an hour remaining, with the help of an error by Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero. The win sees Athletic maintain their six-point gap over Sevilla, who are their nearest challengers for fourth spot in the Primera Division. Malaga suffered their 15th defeat of the season, but have little concern of falling into the relegation zone, still a comfortable seven points above the bottom three.
Andoni Zubizarreta has acknowledged Barcelona’s recent results have left him experiencing his “worst moment as sporting director”, but backed coach Gerardo Martino to see out his contract. Saturday’s shock 1-0 Spanish La Liga defeat at Granada meant the reigning champions finished the weekend third in the standings – four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid – with five games remaining.
The loss in Andalusia came hot on the heels of the midweek Champions League exit at the hands of Los Rojiblancos, and Zubizarreta admitted it was a tough time.
The club’s medical update reads:
“Medical tests performed on Cristiano Ronaldo have revealed an injury to the player’s left biceps femoris muscle. Pending a medical evaluation.”
According to AS Sport, Ronaldo has suffered a small tear to his left hamstring and could be out for up to 15 days.
Initially, it was thought that Cristiano was suffering a patellar tendonitis (Jumper’s knee) but the results of Thursday’s medical exam suggests that the problem could be more serious.
Atletico’s fairytale season continued on Wednesday night when they reached the semi-finals of the European Cup for the first time in 40 years after Koke’s early strike earned them a 1-0 second-leg win over Barca and a 2-1 aggregate triumph. That win keeps Atletico on course for a memorable trophy double this season as they also lead La Liga heading into the final six games.
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino conceded his side had paid for a slow start as Atletico Madrid booked their place in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time in 40 years with a 1-0 win over the Catalans on Wednesday.
Koke scored the only goal of the game after just five minutes to seal a 2-1 aggregate victory for Diego Simeone’s men and Atletico could have won by a far more comfortable margin as they also hit the woodwork three times in the opening 20 minutes.