Real Madrid have handed FC Barcelona their 3rd straight defeat in 3 competitions, the first time that’s occurred since 2003, all while claiming the Copa Del Rey (the King’s Cup) championship through a spectacular goal by record signing Gareth Bale, who showed the world exactly why he was purchased for $123 million over the summer. The game also epitomized the problems that have been plaguing Barcelona since what could be traced back to when one of their most successful managers, Pep Guardiola, had left the club a few seasons ago. Some fans and Spanish media are calling for the club to consider getting him back from German powerhouse club Bayern Munich, however current manager Tata Martino insists he will be staying at the club.
Real Madrid capitalized on nearly every counter-attack they had, which started in the 11th minute of the game when a one-touch through ball from striker Karim Benzema found midfielder Angel di Maria, whose shot was too much for backup keeper Jose Pinto to handle.
Barcelona had few chances after, including a header from defender Jordi Alba which was easy for Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas to handle. Lionel Messi, who seemed to be just another man on the field for Barcelona, had a hard time making his mark on the game in his usual ways. His two shots, one from a volley at the top of the box, and a free kick nearly 30 yards out, all sailed wide of Casillas’ goal. The normal quick passing and footwork of Barcelona’s game all came to naught due to a disciplined and compact Real Madrid defense, cutting out every pass and cross that was finding its way into the 18-yard box.
The unlikely best player who made an impact on the game was Barcelona defender Marc Bartra, who had just recently become match-fit and filled in for injured Gerard Pique. Bartra managed to be one of the few Barcelona players who took a crack at goal and tested Casillas, who managed to bat away the shot for a corner. Barcelona finally got the breakthrough they were desperately looking for when a corner from midfielder Xavi Hernandez found the head of defender Marc Bartra, who did well to direct the ball into the top corner of the net, beating Madrid keeper Casillas. A goal which you wouldn’t expect coming from Barcelona gave them a bit of life in the 68th minute.
However, it was Madrid winger Gareth Bale’s time to shine in this final. An Angel di Maria pass found Bale on the left wing. Barcelona defender Bartra tried to impede Bale’s run by forcing him onto the sidelines, however the unbelievable pace from Bale was too much for the young defender. Bale continued his run and managed to slot the ball past Pinto for the decisive goal of the match.
Barcelona’s own big money signing of the summer Neymar managed to hit the post in the dying minutes of the game, however it wouldn’t effect the outcome that saw a Real Madrid team deservedly win the Copa del Rey title, leaving Barcelona out of the running for almost every chance at a title this season.
The rumor mill is swirling about the lack of fire in the Barcelona team, who have seemed to accept that their era as the dominant team in Europe is over. Fans have predicted that there is an overwhelming probability that they will fail to retain the La Liga title, and some are questioning the leadership from top to bottom. A slow realization has sunk in, in a massive way, that there needs to be a changing of the guard at the Catalan club.