Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he was now looking for “regular games” from Gareth Bale, after the fit again galactico marked his first start in four months with a goal in Thursday’s 3-0 Copa del Rey last 16 first leg win at Segunda side Numancia.
When Lucas Vazquez was tripped in the area near the hour mark, soon after Numancia had their own penalty claim turned down, as one of the few senior players starting Bale grabbed the ball and calmly slid home the spot kick.
Although Numancia midfielder Pape Diamanka deservedly picked up a second yellow soon after half-time, the minnnows almost equalised when substitute Inigo Perez hit the crossbar from the centre-circle after catching keeper Kiko Casilla off his line.
Madrid made sure of the win late on with a late penalty again won by Lucas Vazquez and converted by substitute Isco, and added time far post header by Borja Mayoral. By that stage Bale had been substituted, presumably as he will start in Madrid’s La Liga trip to Celta Vigo on Sunday evening.
“It was important to see how [Bale] felt,” Zidane told the post-game news conference. “In the end he played an hour, without problems, feeling physically well. He had played four games with 20 or 30 minutes [off the bench], this was his first start. So we will continue like this. We want him to play regularly now.”
Although a team including mostly youngsters and squad players did not really sparkle, Zidane said he was happy with how the game had gone.
“I am very happy as we got a good result in the end,” he said. “This was not an easy place to come, they have been playing well and made it tough for us, but we got a good result. Many of these are players who do not play so often. In the second half we had some problems, above all when they were down to 10. But in general I am happy. We managed to get three goals, kept a clean sheet, so I am happy for those who played.”
Young centre-forward Mayoral now has five goals in all competitions this season, the same as currently injured first choice Karim Benzema in less than half the game time. Zidane however made clear he was not planning on changing his pecking order up front.
“Borja is an importnat player in the squad,” the former galactico said. “Every time I can, I will pick him. But there are many players in this squad who do not get so many minutes. They must be patient, work hard, and every time they get a chance they need to participate and battle.”
Zidane said that even at 3-0 up his team would have to put in another ‘serious’ performance in the second leg at the Bernabeu next Wednesday evening.
“We know that we must play the return game, as always,” he said. “The tie is never over, we must play another serious game in the second leg. But first to rest and think about Sunday’s game.”