News Live Scores
Barcelona v Real Madrid

Bale shows he's not finished yet as Madrid struggle without injured Ronaldo

00:57 GMT+4 07/05/2018
Gareth Bale Real Madrid Barcelona La Liga
The Blancos fell apart in the second half after losing their superstar, despite being a man up, but the Welsh idol rescued a point in the Clasico

Gareth Bale should never have seen the second half of Sunday's Clasico at Camp Nou.

Not only did he deserve a straight red card for his cowardly rake down the back of Samuel Umtiti's right leg just before the break, he also could not have complained had he been withdrawn at the interval after an atrocious opening 45 minutes.

Indeed, had it not been for his dreadful foul on the Barcelona defender, one would have been forgiven for forgetting that Bale was playing.

So, when it emerged that Marco Asensio was coming on for the second half, it was thought that the winger would be replacing the Welshman.

However, Real's worst nightmare then became a reality when it was confirmed that it was, in fact, star man Cristiano Ronaldo who had been withdrawn.

It certainly wasn't a tactical decision. The Portuguese had been a constant threat in the first half but in scoring Real's equaliser, he had taken a heavy knock to his right ankle from Gerard Pique.

Ronaldo had actually hit the back of the Barcelona net just moments after the ball had in the 14th minute, propelled forwards after being hit hard by the defender as he converted Karim Benzema's clever knockdown.

It was immediately clear that something was wrong, as Ronaldo didn't celebrate.

There was no customary leap into the air. There was no finger over his mouth in an attempt to quieten the Camp Nou crowd. He didn't even take his shirt off!

The Portuguese had just equalled Alfredo di Stefano's record of 18 goals in the Clasico, with Madrid's 400th in the Clasico in all competitions, but he was in no mood to revel in his historic strike.

Instead, he promptly made his way to the sideline for treatment and returned moments later, taking a couple of tentative touches of the ball in midfield, before seemingly returning to full working order.

Indeed, having cancelled out Luis Suarez's opener, Ronaldo looked destined to take outright possession of Di Stefano's Clasico record.

One goal-bound effort was brilliantly blocked by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while he dragged another shot just wide of the right post.

This was Ronaldo at his most dangerous. He had seven shots in the first half alone – more than the entire Barcelona team (3) combined.

In his absence, Real struggled to break down a Blaugrana side that had been reduced to 10 men following Sergi Roberto's straight red card for raising his hand to Marcelo in injury time at the end of the first half.

Asensio did find himself in acres of space shortly after his introduction but selfishly elected to go himself and shot straight at Ter Stegen. That wasted breakaway aside, the visitors struggled badly to create any clear-cut openings.

So, when Lionel Messi produced a trademark show of genius to put the hosts ahead shortly before the hour – albeit after a clear foul from Suarez on Raphael Varane – Real looked set to slump to a demoralising defeat against 10 men.

However, with 19 minutes to go, Asensio slipped the ball inside to Bale, who produced a magnificent curling finish to restore parity once more.

It was a stunning strike from Bale, a timely reminder that he remains capable of magical moments in the most important of games. Not since breaking his duck with that wondrous solo strike in the Copa del Rey final in 2014 had he netted in the Clasico, which told its own story of how he has struggled for form and fitness in the intervening four years.

Of course, the final result, 2-2, was largely inconsequential but, as the front page of AS had reminded everyone on Sunday morning, "A Clasico is still a Clasico." And Bale showed he can clearly still deliver at the highest level. 

However, good as he can be, he is certainly no Ronaldo and Real's players, coaching staff and fans now face an anxious wait to discover the severity of his ankle knock, and whether it could threaten his participation in the Champions League final against Liverpool on May 26.

Initial reports suggest it isn't too serious. Real better hope not. As the second half of the Clasico painfully underlined, they are not the same side without Ronaldo.