Healthy Bale looks to justify huge price tag
Updated: 2013-10-21 07:08
By Agence France-Presse in Madrid (China Daily)
Gareth Bale, the world's most expensive player at $135 million, is hoping to kick-start his career with Real Madrid after returning to action in its 2-0 win over Malaga on Saturday.
The Welshman was introduced as a substitute with just 13 minutes remaining, but still had time to make an impact as he was fouled by Weligton inside the area in stoppage time to allow Cristiano Ronaldo to stroke home Real's second goal from the penalty spot.
Bale's first six weeks in the Spanish capital have been marred by slight muscular injuries that have restricted him to just four appearances so far.
However, he rejected claims in the Spanish media earlier this week that he was suffering from a slipped disc.
"It was just a little thigh strain that was blown massively out of proportion. It is just a minor injury and I'm back now," he told Real Madrid TV.
"I've not had a lot of game time, preseason, training or running so you pick up little niggles.
"I have to take one step at a time. I've not had much training or games. It's all about building me up now."
Victory against Malaga, combined with Barcelona's draw at Osasuna, was the perfect start to a crucial week for Real.
The Spanish giant hosts Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday before traveling to face Barcelona next weekend knowing that a win will lift it into a tie with the Catalans.
And Bale is hoping to finally make a significant impact at his new club.
"I need to introduce myself now and prepare myself right for the rest of the season," he said.
"It was massively important to get a win today. We played well throughout whole game and we're now looking forward to next two games."
No perfect start
Barcelona missed the chance to equal the best ever start to a Spanish league season as it dropped its first points of the campaign in a 0-0 draw at Osasuna.
With Lionel Messi starting on the bench, the visiting team failed to make the most of its dominance in the first half with Marc Bartra's wayward header its only serious effort on goal.
Neymar and Cesc Fabregas then passed up great chances to put Barca in front at the beginning of the second half before Messi came in.
However, even the Argentine couldn't open the door as Osasuna stood firm to prevent Barca scoring in the league for the first time since January 2012.
"With the performance of the team and the chances we had, normally it would be enough for Barcelona to win but today it wasn't to be," lamented Barca coach Gerardo Martino.
"I am very calm with the performance of the team, especially because Osasuna is a team that can cause damage in their stadium and we didn't suffer at all defensively."
Real Madrid striker Gareth Bale (left) vies for the ball with Malaga forward Fabrice Olinga in their Spanish league match on Saturday at Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Gerard Julien / Associated Press
(China Daily 10/21/2013 page23)