GARETH BALE ended his Madrid stand-off to make a scoring comeback against Arsenal.
The £85million Welshman appeared to have played his last game for the Spanish giants when he told boss Zinedine Zidane that he did not want to get changed for last week’s pre-season friendly with Bayern Munich.
But he was unexpectedly back in action as a second-half sub last night and wasted no time making his point to Zidane.
Bale had only been on the pitch for 11 minutes before he prodded the ball home to spark a crazy comeback in sultry Washington.
Of course it won’t be enough to persuade Zidane to abandon his plan to sell the former Spurs star at the first opportunity.
But at least Bale can take heart from his part in turning this game on its head as both teams finished a man down despite missing in the penalty shoot-out.
Things started badly for Arsenal before the match even kicked off, when Ainsley Maitland-Niles reported a tight calf in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Carl Jenkinson.
Maybe it was the thought of facing Eden Hazard again so soon his Baku roasting which caused Maitland-Niles to seize up.
And when Karim Benzema drew a sharp save from Emiliano Martinez and Sokrartis was forced into a last-ditch tackle to thwart Luka Jovic in the opening three minutes, you really started to fear for the Gunners.
But that was not how things would work out after Real defender Nacho received a tenth minute red card for handling Alexandre Lacazette’s shot on the line.
Playing against ten man was probably not what Unai Emery wanted at this stage of his pre-season preparations.
But his team were not going to look this gift horse in the mouth and seized the lead thanks to Lacazette’s penalty which crept in off both posts.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was foiled by the diving Kaylor Navas as Arsenal stepped on the gas.
But there was no denying Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when he raced on to Granit Xhaka’s 25th minute through ball to double Arsenal’s lead.
Yet Arsenal’s numerical advantage was not to last too much longer and Sokratis was seething when he received two yellow cards within the space of two minutes for innocuous challenges on Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
Benzema should have reduced the deficit in first-half stoppage time but headed against the outside of the post with the goal at his mercy.
That was to be the Frenchman’s last contribution before being replaced by Bale at half-time along with the disappointingly quiet Hazard.
Suddenly Arsenal could barely get the ball out of their own half and it was no surprise when they were pegged back by Bale’s 56th minute goal.
Marco Asensio fired Madrid level from Mafcelo’s cut-back three minutes but was then carried off on a stretcher after falling awkwardly in a challenge with Aubameyang.
But Arsenal were not finished quite yet and it took a goal-line clearance from Bale to deny Calum Chambers a most unlikely winner.
Eddie Nketiah squandered two glorious chances to pinch the victory for Arsenal right at the death and that meant a penalty shoot-out.
Bale handed the initiative to Arsenal when his tame spot-kick was easily saved by Martinez but then Granit Xhaka, Nacho Monreal and Robbie Burton missed to hand victory to Real.
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