The win helped Los Blancos install a temporary three-point lead at the top of La Liga and piles the pressure on title rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, who both play later in the weekend. Bale’s brilliant strike was easily the highlight of an unspectacular contest and goes some way to suggesting that the Wales international will become one of Real Madrid's greats.
In the absence of star man Cristiano Ronaldo, this was a great chance for Bale to prove his credentials and the 24-year-old did not disappoint. Although his first-half display was uninspired, the long-range screamer certainly showed that the former Spurs man is capable of lighting up the greatest stage of all.
Since joining Real Madrid last summer for a world-record €91 million, Bale has had to overcome a number of fitness issues, but has still enjoyed a relatively successful campaign. Saturday’s strike was his 10th in 17 La Liga appearances; when it is added to the nine assists and two Champions League goals, it is hard to find fault with the Welshman’s form.
However, with such a huge price tag comes immense responsibility, and various sources have questioned whether the Blancos' number 11 will ever truly merit the label of "world’s most expensive player."
Earlier this week, former Real coach Jorge Valdano claimed to Spanish newspaper AS that Bale is being "saved by his teammates," according to Liam Prenderville in the Mirror. The 58-year-old hinted that the Welshman had so far failed to live up to expectations and that his shortcomings were being compensated for by the success of the team as a whole.
Another ex-Blancos boss, Juande Ramos, also suggested that he’d anticipated more from the former Tottenham winger, but Ramos did tip Bale to succeed in the long run to AS, according to Ben Jefferson at the Daily Express.
Questions regarding Bale’s ability have come exclusively from outside sources and no noise from inside the Bernabeu camp has suggested any unhappiness from club or player. His latest goal could give him the impetus to really kick on as Real enter the business end of the campaign.
With Real having already booked a place in the Copa del Rey final, in addition to their current position at the top of La Liga [at the time of writing], it could yet be a monumental season in the club’s history. They are also looking to win an unprecedented 10th Champions League title, their first for 12 years, as their campaign resumes in midweek with a trip to Schalke in the round of 16.
Winning Europe’s elite prize is the primary target for Real, and Bale’s form could be a huge factor in whether they succeed. As the fixtures come thick and fast, those early-season injuries could be key as the Wales star’s legs will undoubtedly feel fresh considering his lack of game time. If he continues to score goals like the one against Elche when Ronaldo returns, then Madrid certainly have a chance of achieving their aim.
Saturday's strike won't stop the doubters completely, but if this is Bale in bad form then Madrid are in for a treat when he reaches his best.