Coming off the back of the sweet 7-3 victory, Real Madrid were expected to make easy work of struggling city-rivals Rayo Vallecano as the Madridistas made their way to the Vallecas stadium. Real looked to be on course for a repeat of their Sevilla performance but in the end just about made it across the finish line with the full 3 points. A brilliant Rayo performance, especially in the second-half, making for a fascinating derby.
Ancelotti made a few changes to the line-up he preferred against Sevilla. Carvajal, Coentrao and Di Maria, all handed starting roles for this one. It was also nice to see Xabi start after getting a few minutes in the game against Sevilla. Madrid went with a dynamic 4-2-2-2/4-3-3 formation with the front three exchanging positions and roaming into space alternatively. On paper to some extent, the starting line-up looked something like this:
Carvajal – Pepe – Ramos – Coentrao
Modric – Xabi Alonso – Di Maria
Bale – Benzema – CR7
The match started off with a bang as it took Cristiano Ronaldo a mere 3 minutes to get his name on the scoresheet. Taking the ball on the left, CR7 nutmegged the Rayo defender and calmly side-footed the ball placing it into the far-right bottom corner of the Rayo goal. A Sevilla repeat? Rayo answered that with a firm, NO.
True to their style, Rayo kept up their attacking play, maintaining a high-tempo and pressing game. They kept creating chances finding their way past the jumpy Real Madrid defence peppering Diego Lopez’s goal with a couple of shots and attempts. Rayo were not going to make this easy for Madrid and were playing with an intensity deserving of a much higher standing in the La Liga table.
Despite the Rayo attempts, it was Madrid, who scored again in the 31st minute. Xabi Alonso, dispossessing Rayo and disrupting a potential Rayo break, found Bale to the right. Bale, let the ball run through his legs, sprinted past the Rayo defence line and sprayed a beautiful cross to the head of Benzema, who easily guided it into the Rayo net; 2-0, and thank you.
For all of Madrid’s attacks, neither side created much trouble for either goalkeeper for the remainder of the first-half. Coentrao picked up a knock and had to be substituted for Marcelo around the 45th minute mark as the teams went in for half-time with the score at 2-0 and Real Madrid looking at yet another comfortable victory.
The second-half saw the introduction of Asier Illaramendi, replacing Xabi Alonso, as the game restarted in pretty much similar fashion to the first-half. It took Madrid only 3 minutes, after the restart, to make it 3-0. Bale preventing a ball from going out of play, flicked the ball over his oncoming marker, found himself in space to run and charged into the Rayo penalty area. He unselfishly picked out CR7 in the middle with a driven cross-in, who comfortably slotted the ball home, adding to Madrid’s lead in the 48th minute.
The 3rd goal, however, spurred Rayo into a new-found turbo gear as it was all Rayo from then on. Rayo pressed, pushed and were making it extremely uncomfortable for Madrid to create any sort of play, let alone build an attack. 1 shot striking the post, 2 penalties and 3 minutes later, by the 56th minute, Rayo found themselves back into the game at 3-2 and dominating play as they forced Madrid into nothingness, bringing nervy moments for Diego Lopez and his shaky, uncertain defence. Dani Carvajal, already on a yellow card, probably got lucky in the 57th minute for what could have been a possible second-booking and sending off. However, the referee decided against carding the Castilla product, who was then, promptly substituted by Ancelotti in the 59th minute for another former product, Alvaro Arbeloa.
The change made no difference to Rayo as they pushed and attacked Madrid with breathtaking intensity and pace. Madrid appeared to have no clue or answer to Rayo, except for maybe hoping that Rayo would not be able sustain this kind of pressure for too long. The fans and the crowd at the Vallecas could sense the shift in the tide creating an intense atmosphere for the second-half. Rayo only marginally eased off as the second-half drew along forcing Diego Lopez to pull off some major saves ensuring that Madrid held on to their 1-goal advantage. Real Madrid failed to make almost any headway in the second-half, confined within their half and barely able to hold on to possession as Rayo kept hitting Madrid with wave after wave of attacks.
Somehow, Diego Lopez and Real Madrid, managed to hold on and emerge with the 3 points at the end of the game. Rayo, unbelievably in 20th place now, ran all over Madrid in the second half coming agonizingly close to pulling atleast a point off Real Madrid, if not more. Ancelotti would surely be wondering what hit them in the last 40 minutes, what Rayo did and why Madrid looked lost and dazed by the pressure and intensity of the Rayo team; maybe even thanking the Ref for ensuring Madrid had 11 players to cope with till the end, which could very well have been 10 on another not-so-fortunate day. As for now, Madrid will go back pleased with the 3 points in the bag. They still remain 6 points off the leaders, Barcelona, and 2 points off 2nd placed Atletico Madrid (who play on Sunday). For Real Madrid, however, it’s time to shift focus once more to the Champions League game and the upcoming trip to the Old Lady, Juventus.Published 03 Nov 2013, 11:57 IST