Bale had gained a reputation as a ‘fast-track bully’ since arriving in the Spanish capital. Not any more.
Gareth Bale’s stunning solo strike five minutes from time brought Real Madrid their 19th Copa del Rey title over rivals Barcelona at the Mestalla.
The Welshman enjoyed his most productive el Clásico to date, and showed great speed and composure in ending the Catalans’ run of 27 consecutive wins in the competition.
Angel Di Maria gave Madrid a deserved first-half lead before Marc Bartra headed Barcelona level half-way through the second-half.
With Cristiano Ronaldo absent through injury and Lionel Messi once again subdued, the stage was set for Bale, whose masterful finish was so nearly cancelled out in the final minute, as Neymar’s toe-poke hit a post.
Barcelona, third favourites for the Spanish title after last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Granada, continued their Champions League hangover as Gerardo Martino’s side suffered their third defeat in a week for the first time in 11 years.
Shorn of the defensive experience of Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol, they fell behind on 11 minutes after exceptional counter-attacking football from Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
After Bale had exchanged passes with Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria breached the offside trap, squeezed a yard on Jordi Alba before shooting beyond Jose Pinto’s desperate dive.
Barcelona equalised in the 67th minute when Xavi’s corner was guided beyond the outstretched Iker Casillas by the head of Marc Bartra via the far post. It was the first goal that Real had conceded in this year’s competition but they were not to be denied.
Just when the match appeared to be heading for extra time, Bale notched his 20th goal since becoming a Galáctico, outstripping Bartra before guiding the ball through the legs of Pinto.