Bale under scrutiny again as Real feel the love for Vinicius
"Bale es fantastico," said Real Madrid's interim coach Santiago Solari, but the Welshman was still taken off in the 71st minute against Real Valladolid last Saturday.
Real were drifting towards a 0-0 draw at their Santiago Bernabeu home and, searching for inspiration, it was Bale's No. 11 that came up.
He departed to whistles from the fans even if Solari spared him being replaced directly by Vinicius Junior.
Nevertheless, the 18-year-old came on two minutes later and made the difference, his shot deflecting in to give Real the lead.
"Another day, Gareth will score," Solari said. "And everyone will celebrate."
But those quickest to criticise Bale are circling again ahead of the trip to Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Support for Vinicius has been intense and Bale is seen as the one standing in the way.
This season, free of both injury and Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale started well, posting four goals and two assists from his first six games.
But an adductor problem last month, combined with the team's crash under Julen Lopetegui, disrupted his rhythm. He has returned but is still not fully fit.
Still, the number of times Bale has been substituted has been a surprise, not least because his withdrawals have often come when Real should need him most.
If Solari believes the excitement around Vinicius is worth harnessing, perhaps the Brazilian could slot into a front three alongside Bale.Finding the right combination, and extracting more from Bale, is likely to be top of Solari's priorities.
Discounting the Copa del Rey win over Melilla, who play in Spain's third tier, four of Real's last five goals have come from their left-back, central defender and an own goal. - AFP