Gareth Bale admitted he seems to have a knack for scoring in finals after becoming the first player to score in both the Champions League and MLS Cup finals, helping LAFC win the Major League Soccer championship for the first time on Saturday.
Bale scored a dramatic equalizer in the 128th minute of a thrilling final at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles before LAFC went on to defeat Philadelphia Union 3-0 in stoppage time.
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The Welsh star’s goal was the last in MLS history and tied the game at 3-3 after LAFC had twice led before going down to 10 men in extra time and then falling behind four minutes into stoppage time.
It was Bale’s sixth goal in the grand final. Three were in the Champions League final — one against Atletico Madrid in 2014 and two, including a spectacular overhead kick, against Liverpool in 2018. He also scored the winner against Barcelona in the 2014 Copa del Rey final before netting Madrid’s win the World Club Championship final of the same year.
“It’s always nice to score in finals and I seem to have a knack for it,” Bale said.
“It’s big. It’s important for the club, it’s important for the fans. We went down to 10 men and didn’t really look like we were going to get anything out of the game. Credit to everyone who kept pushing, fighting and, like I said, it was nice to score a goal and help the team. I’m not sure where she’s ranked, but it’s a great feeling.”
Bale joined LAFC on a free transfer after his eight-year spell at Real Madrid ended this summer.
But the fitness issues that blighted his final seasons in the Spanish capital have continued since he arrived in LA, limiting him to just two starts as LAFC won the Supporters’ Shield.
When he came off the bench in the seventh minute of stoppage time on Saturday, it was Bale’s first appearance in the playoffs.
“It was a difficult transition season without pre-season,” admitted Bale. “I’m trying to catch up, it was difficult, obviously I’m moving with my family.
“But I tried to be as fit as I can, try to help the team as much as I can on and off the field and it’s all worth it when you have moments like today. The most important thing was the goal to win the MLS Cup final and we did it.”
The 33-year-old warned he is still not 100 per cent fit after the recent knock and admitted he was concerned about his condition just over two weeks before he was due to lead Wales in their first World Cup since 1958.
“I feel better and better as time goes on,” he said. “I think it was mentally difficult to manage the World Cup. You see how there are so many players who give up and now miss the World Cup.
“It was definitely in the back of my mind, trying to make sure I was 100% fit.”
Wales’ first World Cup game will be, coincidentally, against the United States on November 21. LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo, who played 87 games for the USA, joked that he hoped Bale would not have a similar effect against the Americans.
“I’m sure not, but I’ll try,” Bale replied.