Gareth Bale continued a fine run of recent form to further press his claims for a starting place against Liverpool in the Champions League final with a brace in Real Madrid’s 6-0 thrashing of Celta Vigo.
Bale was confined to the Madrid bench in every Champions League knockout match this season with the exception of the home quarter-final against Juventus, where he was substituted at half-time.
But the Wales star has put injury woes behind him to enter LaLiga’s final straight with a flourish and Sunday’s brilliant double – on the back of a fine equaliser in last weekend’s 2-2 Clasico draw at Barcelona – took him on to 18 goals for the season in all competitions.
A majestic third from Isco put the result beyond any doubt and teenage full-back Achraf Hakimi piled on further misery for Celta boss and former Barca assistant Juan Carlos Unzue, who saw defender Sergi Gomez put through his own goal 16 minutes from time.
Toni Kroos – the creative force behind many of Madrid’s best moments – completed the scoring as Los Blancos bid for a third consecutive European crown in Kiev nears.
Before that, Zinedine Zidane’s men could still pip Atletico Madrid to second behind Barcelona on LaLiga’s final weekend if they win at Villarreal and their neighbours – Europa League finalists this Wednesday – lose to Eibar.
Luka Modric’s exquisite 13th-minute througball gave Bale the edge on the Celta defence to clip in a finish via the inside of the right post.
Some comical Madrid defending briefly looked to have brought Celta level but Daniel Wass was in an offside position when he cut back for Maxi Gomez to finish, although Casemiro was fortunate not to be punished for bundling Brais Mendez to the floor before the ball fell to Wass.
Achraf should have done better than a tame shot across goal after Kroos became the latest Madrid midfielder to exploit the space in behind Celta left-back Jonny, who was then embarrassed by Bale’s sublime second.
Isco floated a pass deep into Celta’s problem left channel, where a rampant Bale cut inside by nutmegging Jonny and lashed into the top corner from a narrow angle.
It was swiftly three by the 32nd minute, Isco unfurling a glorious strike to equal Bale’s moments earlier that arced over a helpless Sergio Alvarez into the top right corner.
Keylor Navas reacted sharply to keep out Wass’ 40th-minute header, by which point Madrid were already operating at cruise control.
Achraf gained reward for his relentless raids forward seven minutes into the second half as he gathered Karim Benzema’s neat lay-off and fired through Alvarez’s legs.
The Celta goalkeeper kept out a header before the hour to deny Bale his hat-trick and the officials erred in disallowing Benzema’s follow-up for offside.
Bale fired too close to Alvarez before the unfortunate Sergi Gomez slid a cross from Madrid substitute Marco Asensio into his own net.
Alvarez emerged from a chastening outing with credit and denied Asensio’s fellow replacement Borja Mayoral at close quarters before Kroos coolly found the corner.
Key Opta stats:
– Gareth Bale has scored in three La Liga games in a row for the first time since April 2016
– Bale has scored four braces in LaLiga this season, more than in any other single season since he joined Real Madrid.
– Isco has been directly involved in six goals in his last four meetings against Celta in La Liga (one scored, five assisted)
– Toni Kroos has scored four goals against Celta in La Liga, more than he has against any other side in the competition.