MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26: Cristiano Ronaldo (2nd L) of Real Madrid scores his team's opening goal during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid at Estadio Teresa Rivero on February 26, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid managed to get the three points out of Vallecas in what was a hard-fought, muddy game by both teams. Mourinho chose to start Kaka and Higuaín to make up for Di María and Benzema's absences. However, both players were terrible, and the team completed one of its worst games of the season. Their performance was comparable to earlier in the season at El Sardinero against Racing and at Son Moix against Mallorca.
The first half started well for los blancos. Mourinho's team started to dominate after the first five minutes, but Rayo soon turned things around and started to prevent Real Madrid from creating dangerous plays.
Real Madrid's rivals had a very good chance to score after Michu hit the post before half time. The players were waiting for halftime as the best possible result given the circumstances was the 0-0 draw. Callejón and Coentrao warmed up during the last minutes of the first half.
The second half started a little slower. Higuaín and Kaka started to work defensively, especially the Argentinian, which prevented Rayo from creating danger. Real Madrid needed to score at least one goal to get the three points, so Mourinho needed to makes some changes. Before he had a chance to make his first change, however, Cristiano Ronaldo scored with a beautiful heel-shot. The ball went in miraculously, so the team no longer needed to score.
Mourinho removed the invisible Kaka from the field and introduced Coentrao. The Portuguese player entered in the left back position, and Marcelo moved to the midfield to press Rayo's players. Coentrao was brilliant in left back, and Rayo's players were made to feel uncomfortable. Mourinho then introduced Callejón for Higuaín. The Argentinian player is going to have a hard time replacing Karim Benzema, and must step up his play.
Real Madrid played with a 4-3-3 formation for the rest of the game, but Callejón and Özil helped the midfielders. Ronaldo was the only player without defensive duties, but he was still able to catch some long passes and start counter-attacks. Marcelo received a yellow card, so Mourinho replaced him with Granero, who is more used to play in the three-man midfield than the Brazilian.
Khedira and Alonso performed very badly, and Rayo almost took advantage of this. Ramos lost an easy goal that allowed Rayo's striker to face Casillas. Luckily enough for Madrid, he shot it too high and the ball went over the post.
As the game went on, Real Madrid had some good chances of finishing the game up with counter-attacks. Callejón, Ronaldo and Özil weren't lucky this time, so the team had to defend the 0-1 result. In the addition time, Michu was sent off after he tackled Khedira. The referee was awful throughout, and he was clearly wrong in this play. What Michu did was arguably deserving of a yellow, but never a red card.
Rayo Vallecano still had a chance to tie the game up in the addition time off a corner-kick. Rayo's striker just had to push the ball inside, but he missed his chance. Tamudo also joined the game and tried to help Rayo. The referee finally called the end of the game after Rayo's goalkeeper went to the attack in their final corner-kick.
Real Madrid was lucky to get the three points today, and this was a very important win for the team. Espanyol will visit the Santiago Bernabeu next weekend in what will be another difficult game for los merengues.
Who was the Man of the Match?
Cristiano Ronaldo (160 votes)
Pepe (12 votes)
Casillas (36 votes)
Other (5 votes)
213 total votes