Gareth Bale helped inspire Los Angeles FC to their first ever MLS Cup in dramatic scenes on Saturday night.
Since waving goodbye to Real Madrid at the end of his contract this summer, Bale has been gearing up for a historic World Cup campaign with Wales by testing himself at the Banc of California Stadium.
However, despite scoring in just his second appearance in the MLS, Bale‘s overall game time remained scarce as he started just two of his 12 outings in the regular season as LAFC took home the Supporters’ Shield.
Bale’s LAFC faced Philadelphia Union in the MLS Cup
But when you’ve got the class of a five-time Champions League winner, then you often only need a few minutes to make your presence felt.
And that was certainly the case when it came to arguably the biggest match in LAFC’s short history as they locked horns with Philadelphia Union this weekend with the MLS Cup on the line.
Once again, Bale had to settle for a place on the bench as he watched his side lead twice courtesy of Kellyn Acosta and Jesús David Murillo, only to be pegged back on both occasions by the visitors.
Dániel Gazdag brought things back to 1-1 early in the second-half, before a dramatic 85th-minute strike from Jack Elliott ensured that the culmination of the MLS Cup Playoffs would go all the way to extra time.
Mo Salah will HURT TOTTENHAM 😨 (Football Terrace)
Late drama in the MLS Cup
And it was at this point that Steve Cherundolo decided to play his ace in the pack, bringing on Bale to replace fellow Premier League and north London alumnus Carlos Vela in the 97th minute.
However, Bale’s introduction looked to be in vein when Elliott found the back of the net again for Philadelphia, bundling the ball home from just a few yards out for the latest goal in MLS history.
Yes, that’s right, with an astonishing 124 minutes on the clock, the 27-year-old seemed for all intents and purposes to have wrapped up the silverware in the most dramatic way possible by besting his teammate Jakob Glesnes’ record of 123 minutes from last season.
What record did Bale break?
But come on, let’s face it, you wouldn’t be reading this article if the drama ended there because to say that there was another dramatic twist in the tale would be the mother of all understatements.
That’s because, in truly breath-taking scenes, Bale then stole the MLS record off Elliott just as quickly as he’d broken it by scoring a barely believable 128th-minute equaliser for LAFC.
It might not have been a bicycle kick or 40-yard screamer, but Bale heading home in the final seconds of the championship game of the season was nevertheless a crazy moment that sparked absolute limbs in California.
So, be sure to do yourselves a favour and check out Bale scoring the latest goal that the MLS has ever seen to pull LAFC back from the brink just when it was starting to look impossible.
Video: Bale’s dramatic equaliser for LAFC in the MLS Cup
— LAFC (@LAFC) November 5, 2022
Bale just loves the big occasion, doesn’t he? Look at the scenes of delirium.
What happened in the penalty shootout?
However, as you well know, scoring a dramatic extra-time equaliser doesn’t mean much in the long run if you don’t win the subsequent penalty shootout.
And football’s famous lottery certainly started in nerve-wracking fashion for LAFC and Philadelphia as the scores remained locked at 0-0 after the first round with both Cristian Tello and Gazdag drawing a blank.
However, while the Union continued to come up short via José Andrés Martínez and Kai Wagner, the trio of Denis Bouanga, Ryan Hollingshead and Ilie Sánchez all held their nerve to bring the silverware home for LAFC.
Bale fires himself up for the World Cup
So, there you have it, Bale might not have started from the off and he might not have scored the winning penalty, but something just feels so right about it being his dramatic equaliser that saved the day.
Bale may only have been in California for a few months, but he’s already made quite the impact with two new shiny titles already taking pride of place on his mantelpiece.
And while it would take a miracle of truly mind-boggling proportions for the World Cup to join that collection, you can rest assured that winning the MLS Cup will fire him up perfectly to lead the Welsh charge this winter.
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