The fog was thick and eerie at Vallecas, but that did not stop Rayo Vallecano from capitalizing on a home field advantage and ending 2018 with a win. Borja Mayoral got a surprise start in this match, while his loanee counter-part and fellow striker, Raul De Tomas was also restored to the starting line-up after missing out vs Real Madrid last weekend. Rayo vs Levante, or, from a Real Madrid fan perspective: the battle of the strikers—Raul De Tomas vs Borja Mayoral.
The game started out as an open affair, with early opportunities for both sides. Though, as the match wore on, Rayo grew in stature and deserved their 2-1 victory. A lot of good notes from RDT in this match as he was once again a protagonist for this Rayo side. With each passing match, we get a better feel for who Raul De Tomas really is, and he is a very good player. He will take a shot at any opportunity. It does not matter the distance—any remote chance, any few centimeters he can break away from his marker and he will take a shot. In this match alone, he had a few long range (25-30 yards) shots which were on target and did test the keeper.
8 - No Rayo Vallecano's player has made more total shots (eight) & shots on target (five) in a single #LaLiga game than Raúl de Tomás vs Levante since 2011/2012 season. Ambush pic.twitter.com/kSW9RnWSKw— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 23, 2018
He even attempted a shot from the center circle, with his weaker foot, as he saw Oier off his line. Something that is rarely, if ever, noted about RDT is his weaker foot. It’s an underrated aspect; if you watch him closely, it’s almost as if he is ambidextrous—that left foot is not just for standing. He can hit long balls, quick one time passes, shoot well, and dribble with his left foot. I have said it before, but I think RDT is a better all around player than Mariano and may just be a better player in general.
Rayo took the lead through a brilliant individual play from Alex Moreno. Levante tried to create opportunities, but really failed to put together any dangerous opportunities. Borja Mayoral was very quiet and made some good runs, but never got the ball. Levante were poor and unfortunately, Mayoral did not aid his teams cause. He is not going to earn more minutes playing like he did tonight. In fairness to the former Canterano, he was starved of service. But RDT has had to deal with a similar fate all season and has made more of an impact.
This match was all about RDT. He is so hungry for goals every time he plays. He does not seem like he will ever be one of those strikers that struggles for confidence. There will be no mood swings (a la Morata). He has a quiet arrogance that fits his style. Rayo won a free kick in the 59th minute which RDT stood over. He lined it up just like Cristiano Ronaldo (clearly mirrors his game off of CR7) and nearly scored as the ball came in fast and dipped quickly and dramatically. It was reminiscent of a CR7 free-kick during his Manchester United days.
RDT would ultimately get his goal, the game winner, in the 66th minute. Yet another poachers goal to add to his repertoire. And again Alex Moreno would be instrumental in the goal, beating two defenders and slinging a shot that was parried right into RDT’s path for him to stab home. It was Raul De Tomas’ 5th goal in La Liga this season. He would score again just a mere 3 minutes later, after a scramble in the box following a corner kick, but the goal was disallowed and called back for an apparent foul.
Levante tried to mount some sort of comeback by the end of the match, throwing on Boateng for right back Coke and ending the match with four forwards: Roger Marti, Morales, Mayoral, and Boateng. Their desire for a goal left huge gaps and opportunities for Rayo to counter. Near the end of the match Trejo, for Rayo Vallecano, made his way into the box beating two players and than slapping a shot towards goal. The issue with this play was that he had RDT wide open for the tap-in. De Tomas let him know. Even as play was going on around them, RDT got in the face of Trejo and it looked like they may even throw punches, but ultimately were split apart. RDT is the “alpha” of this Rayo team and constantly demands the ball, if he’s looked off for a tap-in, he will let his teammates know it.
In terms of the duel between two loanee strikers, RDT far and away won the battle. In all honesty, he has been wining the battle all season. He has gone under the radar, but RDT is a very good player and right now (he is a couple years older) is the better player. We have another six months into the season to draw more conclusions, but the Rayo man has been the more impressive—the stats below show the stark contrast between their play tonight:
Shots: 8 (5 OT)
Key Passes: 1
Aerial Duels Won: 3 (team high)
Passes: 15 (87% PA)
Match Rating: 8 / 10
Shots: 1 (0 OT)
Key Passes: 0
Aerial Duels Won: 0
Passes: 24 (75% PA)
Match Rating: 3 / 10