Gareth Bale put a public spat over his future behind him to play a major part in Real Madrid’s comeback
Gareth Bale scored, cleared a shot off the line and missed a spot-kick during a surprise appearance for Real Madrid in their penalty shoot-out win over Arsenal.
In a four-goal game where both teams were reduced to 10 men, it was Bale’s impact from the bench that stole the headlines.
The Welshman scored 10 minutes after coming on less than two days since Zinedine Zidane said the forward had refused to play in a friendly with Bayern Munich as part of an ongoing spat over his future.
Any reconciliation was probably the last thing on Zidane’s mind earlier in the game, with Nacho sent off for handball inside 10 minutes and Alexandre Lacazette firing Arsenal ahead from the spot. The French forward then turned provider with a deft flick for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to grab a second on the break.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ two bookings inside a minute before the break levelled things up in terms of personnel, and after the break, Real levelled the scores with a pair of quick-fire goals. The first came from surprise inclusion Bale who toe-poked home the rebound from Marco Asensio’s effort.
Within minutes, Real restored parity with Asensio getting the final touch, a powerful effort in at Emiliano Martinez’s near post from Marcelo’s cross.
After Bale’s clearance and near-miss for a second, Arsenal substitute Eddie Nketiah missed two fine chances to win the game late on which instead saw it go to a shoot-out. It was Real who picked up the extra point when Robbie Burns missed the decisive kick.
Bale missed from the spot in the penalty shoot-out but enjoyed a good performance from the bench
How Bale helped snatch victory from defeat
An experienced Arsenal side flew out of the traps in Washington and had much the better of the early play. Real defender Nacho was then was given his marching orders within 10 minutes when he palmed Lacazette’s goalbound effort off the line – and the Frenchman fired in off the post from the spot.
The Gunners took full advantage of their extra man and soon had a two-goal lead with an early sign their front two have kept up their chemistry. A deft first-time backheel from Lacazette set Aubameyang free, and he rounded Keylor Navas before slotting in.
But with things looking rosy and half-time approaching, Arsenal lost Sokratis, who had first been booked for pulling Kroos to the floor. Moments later, the referee was surrounded by Real players when the Greek defender clattered into Luka Modric and he was dismissed.
Sokratis was handed only the third red card of his professional career
Real should have taken advantage within moments when Modric lifted a wonderful ball over the defence to meet Carvajal’s run, but instead of squaring for an unmarked Benzema, he went for goal himself with a powderpuff effort.
The Frenchman did get a chance of his own moments later and thundered a header against the post from Toni Kroos’ excellent cross.
After half-time, and the introduction of Bale, Marco Asensio and others, Real did mount a comeback.
Both were involved in their first goal as Marcelo’s cross found Asensio and his effort squirmed away from Martinez’s grasp to the feet of Bale, who tapped into an empty net before barely celebrating.
The La Liga side were level through more good work from Marcelo three minutes later. The Brazilian found Marcelo unmarked at the near post and he fired powerfully beyond Martinez.
Bale added to his remarkable appearance by clearing Calum Chambers’ effort from a corner off the line before he came close to a second of the night, bending a fine effort with the outside of his left boot just beyond the far post. Minutes later Asensio was carried from the pitch on a stretcher with a nasty looking knee injury.
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Late on Nketiah should have won the game for Arsenal but his first effort got stuck under Thibaut Courtois’ body, before he nodded wide from close-range moments later leaving the game to be settled by penalties, Misses from Granit Xhaka, Nacho Monreal and Burton handed Real the bonus point despite Bale also missing from the spot.
An olive branch for Bale?
It was slightly surprising to see Gareth Bale named among Real Madrid’s substitutes, and doubly so when he was introduced at the break by Zinedine Zidane. It was only Monday when the Real Madrid boss strongly suggested his time at the club was over, but whatever he saw from the Welshman in the proceeding 48 hours was rewarded by his goal and performance in Washington.
Will this change anything in the often strained relationship between the pair? Could Bale play a part in ZIdane’s plans now? It’s only one game – but signs of a potential reconciliation, if the big-money move Bale desires doesn’t come to fruition, are already there.
How did Hazard get on?
Eden Hazard was largely anonymous before he was hooked like many of his team-mates at half-time. He played in a floating 10 role behind Benzema but with Real Madrid firmly second-best in the first half, he saw very little of the ball and found opportunities hard to come by with Arsenal generally in control of the midfield battle.
Eden Hazard had a quiet afternoon in his second game as a Real Madrid player
When Real did pick the ball up in midfield, Kroos and Modric tended to occupy the sort of positions Hazard would like filling, but of course it’s still very early days.
Where did it go wrong for Arsenal?
It’s only pre-season but Arsenal fell away alarmingly after half-time, and struggled to cope after they were reduced to 10 men to match Real Madrid’s early dismissal.
They were exposed down their right-hand side in particular, and Marcelo was a real menace to Carl Jenkinson when he was introduced at the break. The Gunners dropped deeper and deeper as Real pressurised them, too, inviting pressure and playing into their hands.
This allowed the likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos free reign to dictate play and keep them penned in their own half – and against quality sides that will happen in competitive games too if Unai Emery isn’t careful.
Unai Emery was at times visibly frustrated by Arsenal’s second-half performance
But against a quality Real Madrid side there was plenty to be happy about too. Lacazette and Aubameyang’s partnership already looks back to full strength and for much of the first half they were much the better side.
Arsenal play their first pre-season game in front of their own fans against Lyon on Sunday in the annual Emirates Cup. Real Madrid play arch-rivals Atletico in the International Champions Cup on Saturday.
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