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Gareth Bale Was 'Sensational' Against Kashima Antlers, Says Santiago Solari

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2018

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 19: Gareth Bale of Real Madrid in action during the match between Kashima Antlers and Real Madrid on December 19, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari hailed Gareth Bale's "sensational" performance after he netted a hat-trick against Kashima Antlers on Wednesday to see Los Blancos through to the FIFA Club World Cup final. 

The Welshman opened the scoring just before half-time and had completed his treble 10 minutes after the break.

Real's 3-1 win—Shoma Doi netted a 78th-minute consolation—means they will face Emirati side Al Ain in Saturday's final as they aim to win a third title in succession.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 19:  Real Madrid head coach Santiago Solari looks on prior to the match between Kashima Antlers and Real Madrid on December 19, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Solari praised Bale for his ability to produce consistently good performances on the biggest stages, per Patric Ridge of Goal:

"I'm happy for the three goals scored by Bale and for the solidity and consistency of the team. Bale has taken everything, the spotlight, the stage, the goal. He had a sensational match, he has shown what he is and what he is capable of. In the end, the last person responsible for a performance is always the footballer. 

"Gareth has given great joy to Madrid and has been decisive in very important moments, which is the most important part of football. What dominates football is goals, and Bale scores them."

Bale, 29, netted a sensational double from the bench as Real won the UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool in May, a victory that put them into this year's Club World Cup.

When Cristiano Ronaldo left Real for Juventus in the summer, many expected Bale to step up in 2018-19 and become the club's main attacking threat.

He has struggled to live up to that billing as Real have endured a relatively tough opening to the campaign.

But he found his best form on Wednesday to join an elite group of players to score in three editions of the Club World Cup:

OptaJose @OptaJose

3 - Gareth Bale is the third player in the FIFA Club World Cup history to score in three different editions, after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ace. https://t.co/QxApce2Dx3

Solari will hope the former Tottenham Hotspur man can maintain his form during Saturday's final and over the rest of the season.

Bale has an uncanny ability to score goals when it matters.

He put Real in front in extra time against Atletico Madrid when Los Blancos won the Champions League in 2014, and his winner in the 2014 Copa del Rey final against Barcelona was sensational.

What Bale needs to start doing in order to fill Ronaldo's boots is to match the volume of goals the Portuguese scored for the Madrid club.

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