Is there a better header of the ball in Europe at the moment than Gareth Bale? The statistics say no after his ninth headed goal this season kept Real Madrid in the Spanish title race for another week.
Once again it was Bale who earned Real Madrid the three points – leading from the front in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo. It seems the only thing that Ronaldo does that Bale cannot do is stay fit, and even that has changed in the last week.
Asked if the only thing Bale was lacking in comparison to Ronaldo was that ability to play so many games a season Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane said: ‘He can do everything that Ronaldo can do. When you see a player like Bale score a goal as important as this one then that bodes very well for Wednesday.
He now has 19 goals for the season. All of them have come in the league and with nine no-one has scored more headers.
Real Madrid will hope that with or without Ronaldo on Wednesday against Manchester City, Bale will be able to get off the mark in the Champions League and send the Spanish side into the European Cup final.
His goal came with just 10 minutes left as Real Madrid seemed to be starring down the barrel of title-race exit.
They had thrown everything at Real Sociedad’s 23-year-old keeper Geronimo Rulli but he had batted away chance after chance putting in the kind of Boy’s Own performance that wins games or at least earns draws against the big teams.
It was his brilliant 90 minutes that helped Real Sociedad beat Barcelona at the start of the month – the result that blew this La Liga title race wide open. But Rulli was not to be the hero, that was left to Bale who rose above the hosts’ defence to head in Lucas Vazquez cross on 80 minutes.
He sprinted across to the bench where he was mobbed by manager Zinedine Zidane and an ensemble of technical staff, substitutes and team-mates.
Madrid held on for what was left of the game and are still clinging to the chance that they can overhaul Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.