x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bale’s goal is one to remember as Real Madrid see off Elche

Victory helps hosts keep pace with fellow title challengers Atletico Madrid and Barcelona

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale, right, dribbles through the Elche defence at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on February 22, 2014. Gerard Julien / AFP
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale, right, dribbles through the Elche defence at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on February 22, 2014. Gerard Julien / AFP

ELCHE // Gareth Bale scored a screamer from long-range as Real Madrid beat Elche 3-0 at the Bernabeu on Saturday to keep up their title bid.

The world’s most expensive player added to Asier Illarramendi’s first-half opener with a stunning strike on 71 minutes, and then substitute Isco hit a third with 10 minutes remaining.

Although Madrid never hit top gear, they pulled off their 10th home win of the season to keep the pressure on title rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

In the absence of the suspended Luka Modric, Madrid struggled to control the game in the opening half-hour. With neither of Madrid’s forwards enjoying their finest afternoon, it was left to the man who had been called in to deputise for Modric to get the opener.

Illarramendi controlled a corner with his chest and then fired a low shot into the bottom corner of Manu Herrera’s net to score his first goal for Real Madrid with what was his first shot in the league this season.

The goal settled Madrid, but they had to wait until 18 minutes from time for a second. It was certainly worth the wait.

Bale had struggled to get involved in the game and had a frustrating first half, giving the ball away on numerous occasions, but made amends – picking the ball up around 35 yards out and blasting high into the net to score his 10th league goal for the club.

Isco replaced the off-colour Jese shortly after Bale’s screamer and added the final goal, controlling a pass from Karim Benzema then racing between two defenders to knock the ball in at the near post.

And the Bernabeu faithful fully appreciated the youngster’s first goal of 2014, greeting the finish by chanting his name loudly.

Madrid will welcome back Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo for the trip to Schalke on Wednesday for the first leg of their Uefa Champions League last-16 tie.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Madrid coach, said his side missed their two playmakers.

“I am satisfied because we didn’t concede. Our play could have been better, but at this stage of the season we need to be solid and we were. In tight games Modric gives us more options, but Illarramendi did very well.” He said. “[Bale] didn’t have confidence before scoring a great goal, and after that he was totally different.”

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