Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti hailed Gareth Bale after the Welshman's late goal sunk Barcelona and delivered Real Madrid the Copa del Rey for the 19th time in their history as Los Blancos won 2-1.
The former Tottenham forward galloped towards goal with five minutes remaining and had to swerve off the pitch to beat Barcelona defender Marc Bartra before sliding the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto.
The goal came after Bartra had pulled Barcelona back into the game with a powerful header, which cancelled out Angel Di Maria's first-half opener.
It was Bale's first match-winning goal since joining Madrid from Spurs last summer for a world-record fee.
"It was his most important goal, it was the most defining moment of the game," Ancelotti said in the post-match press conference.
Midfielder Xabi Alonso added: "The goal was incredible , I don't think I've seen anything like it. It looked like the ball was going out and he was under pressure, he ran off the pitch to keep it in, it was just amazing.
Bale himself told Real's official website: "It's a dream come true, not just because I scored but because of the work of the whole team.
"This win is for all the fans and we hope that it will be the first of many to come. Thank you all for your support during the season. We have worked hard as a team".
Gareth Bale has had a fine first season with Real Madrid scoring 20 goals despite missing some time with injuries but he had lacked a signature moment – until now. To score such a good goal, in such a big game, against Real's fiercest rivals is why Los Blancos splashed out a world record fee for his services. It was all the more crucial an impact from the Welshmen with Cristanio Ronaldo out injured. Meanwhile, Barcelona have lost three crucial games in a week and their season could be over.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Real Madrid's treble dreams are very much alive and they have been given the weekend off so they can plan for Bayern Munich in the Champions League next Wednesday. They will be hoping Ronaldo is fit for that clash but he remains doubtful. Barcelona though are facing a potential crisis. Out of the Champions League, they simply must beat Athletic Bilbao on Sunday to stay in the Liga title race. Tata Martino looks doomed as manager though and they desperately need to get their transfer ban overturned so they can freshen up the squad in the summer.
WHAT THE MEDIA SAID
Jim White (Daily Telegraph): Gareth Bale demonstrated last night precisely why he is the world’s most expensive footballer. (The goal) was a magnificent contribution from the former Spur, the goal that brought him the first piece of silverware of his career, the goal that proved the doubters wrong: boy, can he deliver in the games that count. And as his wonderful strike took the cup to the capital, it confirmed what we had all been hearing: the era of Barcelona really is coming to a conclusion.
Sid Lowe (the Guardian): The Cardiff Express set off at 23.12 and came back with the Copa del Rey on board. Gareth Bale has his first trophy as a Real Madrid player after an astonishing sprint that started just inside his own half and ended with the ball in the back of the Barcelona net. For Madrid and for Bale there are more challenges ahead but the Welshman already has a moment to define his debut season in Spain; the kind of goal that defines him. The speed was breathtaking.
WHAT THE FANS ARE SAYING
A Guy from the Netherlands (Eurosport Yahoo! user): So the one considered useless by the Brits strikes again. They said he didn't show up for the big games ... He did. Again. He may have had a hefty price tag, but it's paying off rapidly. Well done Gareth Bale, well done Real Madrid. Commiserations to Barcelona.
JustAnOpinion (Eurosport mobile app user): Having a great base of players every year who are true Barca men is great but age and injuries catches up with all. Xavi and Puyol for example. Barca needed a better squad of players especially in defence and goalkeeper but they wasted money year in and year out on players not necessary such as attackers. The attack and in general the midfield was never Barca's problem.
- Sports & Recreation
- Gareth Bale
- Real Madrid
- Copa del Rey