Paco Jemez‘s Rayo Vallecano once again gave Real Madrid a run for their money and this time, their efforts were rewarded. The hosts had not won against the Spanish giants since 1997 but today they took hold of their opportunity.
The match tonight in Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas was a clear example of one team playing with all their heart and soul amongst the possibility of being relegated against a team who really could care less about the rest of the season.
With the amount of injuries in Madrid’s squad, Zinedine Zidane had little to choose from when constructing the lineup. As a result, the jumbled XI was ultimately the best he could but the team was very disconnected on the pitch, and rightfully so.
Some surprise guests were Mariano Diaz, Dani Ceballos and Jesus Vallejo who have all seen little playing time this season. Then add in the out-of-touch Gareth Bale and Luka Modric into the formation and almost half the team was sub-par.
Surprisingly out of the bunch, Mariano and Ceballos had the most impact on the game out of all the players which says a lot by itself.
The Dominican had a lot of work and was making creative runs to try and support Bale (who was seemingly dead on the pitch) while the Spaniard did his best to split his skills between the midfield and the attack as evenly as he could.
In all honesty, the initial moments of the game for the team was not that bad.
At first the team was playing vertically with more passes and through balls rather than heavily relying on crosses ( possibly demonstrating a change in approach in training and Zidane’s restructuring) but the inspiration faded after 20 minutes or so.
While Madrid approached the game very slowly, Rayo Vallecano came flying out of the gates right from the start, putting a lot of pressure on Thibaut Courtois and his defence.
Attacking Madrid’s goal was a very easy task because the backline was a mess with tons of open space. There was usually two, but sometimes only one, defender(s) trying to cover the ground.
Once Adri Embarba scored the winning penalty in the 25th minute, the team finally imploded and when they decided to shut off, they really threw the game away.
After the match Zidane himself was one of the first to recognize the terrible performance from the team (as per ESPN).
Looking at the league table, Rayo have the highest amount of conceded goals in LaLiga (tied at 62 with Levante) yet kept a clean sheet against Real Madrid. It was obvious that Rayo were fighting for everything and they gave it their all across 90 minutes.
Madrid on the other hand, looked like they wanted to leave as soon as the match kicked off and ending the season seems to be the only thing on their mind at the moment.
Larger breakdowns of tonight’s defeat and post-match podcasts to come later.