After the break, Real Madrid came out and poured it on Rayo to the tune of three second half goals. I manned the
paintbrush err, trackpad to break down what allowed Real to pull away from Rayo.
How bored was Gareth Bale while he was out with injury through both Liverpool ties and the season's first Clásico? When he wasn't tweeting updates of the games from his living room, I like to imagine he was just standing around his (presumably) fancy house in his Halloween costume.
It took 9 minutes for Bale to get on the scoresheet, but it was really the work of Toni Kroos which enabled the goal. Rayo were trying to get the ball out of their third and backed themselves into a tough spot on the wing. The moment Real recognized Rayo didn't have a clear outlet near the touchline, James, Kroos and Benzema all pressured the ball immediately. Rayo had nowhere to go with the ball, and it made for an easy steal for Kroos. A quick 1-2 pass later and Kroos was crashing the box.
This really only shows how slim the passing lane was for Kroos, but he threaded the needle perfectly with his weak foot. Bale will seldom score an easier goal.
Ramos doubles the lead
Sergio Ramos' goal, which came from a James corner, was pretty simple. Real's corner movement hasn't been overly complicated, players are just attacking the ball in the air more aggressively than they were in the first month of the season. What a luxury it is to have virtually every defender on the roster be a goal-scoring threat from set pieces. Ramos, Pepe and Marcelo stick out, but even Carvajal and Varane probably strike fear in opponents.
James has a brain fart
Oh, this was a fun one. Well, at the time it was unnerving, but watching this on replay is pretty quality slapstick comedy.
Some things in history defy logic and lack scientific explanation, and James' back-pass on Saturday is one of them. I have no idea what he saw or if someone was supposed to be there.
Rayo had just been moving the ball pretty comfortably in Real's third, and had just earned a corner. Somehow the ball ended up at James' feet with three Rayo players on him. The closest player to James at the time of the pass was Ramos, who was very obviously going forward. Maybe he meant to send it to Navas, but the pass didn't have nearly enough weight on it, nor would that have been a particularly good idea.
But for reasons beyond my comprehension, James sent it back, Alberto Bueno took it with ease, and just for good measure Pepe tackled Navas to ensure Rayo the easy goal. We all do dumb things in moments of panic, and that's what I'm chalking this up to be on James' part.
Kroos nets his first Real Madrid goal
Toni Kroos likes to shoot the ball really hard. With his new, deeper, more holding role at Madrid, he hadn't found the net, but before Saturday he had come close a number of times.
As brilliant as Kroos' shot was, this was a really smart play by Ronaldo. It started as a scene we've seen hundreds of times: Ronaldo dribbles on the wing, cuts in and starts some fancy footwork. The red line shows his possible shooting angle, one that Ronaldo is more than capable of hitting. But instead he tees it up to Kroos who was crashing down the middle, who shot a change-up when Rayo were expecting a fastball.
I think it's worth applauding how unselfish Ronaldo's been the last month. Against Barça he was almost too unselfish, and his assist to Kroos was not only unselfish, but really smart. Look for more plays like this from Real going forward: a winger's working inside and sends it to the top of the box for Kroos or Modrić to have a go.
Benzema gets lucky
Just as Rayo's goal probably shouldn't have happened, Real's fourth definitely shouldn't have happened.
Rayo had a throw-in right next to their corner flag, and it ended up being a broken play. Pepe was pressing high, came crashing in and passed it to Ronaldo, whose shot was tipped in by a very offside Karim Benzema.
Just like Real's first goal, the players pressed really hard when Rayo were deep in their own zone on the wings. There are nine white shirts on frame here, showing that Ancelotti really, really loves to give opponents headaches on the wings, whether it's in Real's zone or the opponent's.
Isco and Ronaldo keep it simple
Ronaldo met his quota of a goal per game with relative ease.
This was probably the simplest goal of the night: Real were on the break, Isco placed a perfect pass to Ronaldo, with Ramos dummying the ball through his legs. Rather, this was a simple goal to execute with two players in top form. Cristian Alvarez probably saves Ronaldo's shot most nights, but the score was probably in his head as he let it trickle through his legs and into the net. I can't help but feel bad for him for giving this one up.
Upon review, Real were more lucky than the scoreline shows. Benzema and Ronaldo's goals probably don't count most nights, and Rayo had a goal taken away on a very tight offsides call just before Kroos' goal. Regardless, Ancelotti's offensive machine hummed along as Real Madrid remain atop La Liga going into the international break.