An 89th minute Rodrygo strike saw Real Madrid earn a 2-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano at the Bernabéu on Wednesday night. The Brazilian struck after Karim Benzema had opened the scoring in the first half, with his 30th goal of the season, and after ex-Madridista Raúl de Tomás had briefly equalised for the visitors. This match will also be remembered for the various demonstrations of support for Vinícius, so let’s discuss all of that and some of the other questions to come out of this game.
1. Would Vinícius play after having his suspension overturned?
Although it was expected that Vinícius would be suspended for at least this game following his red card at the end of the mess that was Sunday, the federation announced, much to everyone’s surprise, that there would be no suspension. This meant Vini was actually eligible to play in this match after all. But, would he? He hadn’t trained on Tuesday because of some discomfort in his knee, and that was ultimately the main reason why he wasn’t included in the matchday squad even though he ended up being eligible to play. But, the Brazilian did take to the pitch ahead of kick-off as his teammates showed their support for the 22-year-old by all wearing No.20 Vinícius shirts as they stepped out. Vini then watched the match from the presidential box alongside Florentino Pérez.
2. Would everyone join in the 20th minute show of support for Vinícius this time?
We also knew ahead of this game that there was going to be a show of support for Vinícius from the fans in minute 20, that of his shirt number. There was also a similar plan back in January when Real Madrid played Atlético in the Copa del Rey the day after a horrible effigy depicting the player was hung off a Madrid motorway bridge. However, that show of support didn’t really happen, as Atleti scored in the 19th minute of that game and sucked the air out of the stadium, leaving only the singing section and a handful of others to back Vinícius on that occasion. So, what about tonight? Well, this time everybody did join in. The singing section led the demonstration by chanting the forward’s name and then singing his song, while many more joined in and there was a huge round of applause. It created a special moment that has already been seen around the world.
⏱️ Minute 20— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) May 24, 2023
2️⃣ 0️⃣ @ViniJr#Madridistas pic.twitter.com/wyLjLbXPH2
3. Why was this match moved from Thursday to Wednesday?
The attendance for this game hasn’t officially been released yet, but for sure it was low. And, it makes sense. Not only was this an early kick-off on a working day with nothing at stake, but the kick-off time had also been moved just last Friday. This game was originally supposed to take place at 22:00 local time on Thursday, but was moved to 19:30 on Wednesday. Why? Well, this match was moved so that the weekend’s Sevilla vs Real Madrid could also be brought forward to Saturday, in order to give Sevilla some more rest time ahead of the Europa League final next midweek. While the intention of that might come from a good place, it surely created scheduling problems for many fans who had planned to attend this Real Madrid vs Rayo on Thursday and who couldn’t then make this Wednesday kick-off.
1. When will Fran García officially become the left-back of the Bernabéu?
It was curious that the only natural left-back in this game who is part of Real Madrid’s plans was Fran García, who lined up in the red of Rayo Vallecano. Real Madrid once again improvised on the left of defence, this time fielding Antonio Rüdiger there, and Fran García’s move across town can’t come soon enough. While this was far from his most notable performance, the 23-year-old has been incredible this season and seemingly has a bright future ahead at the Bernabéu. He’ll hope to make many more performances at this stadium, as this was only his third. He has now played for Rayo Vallecano at this ground twice, as well as his sole first-team outing for Los Blancos in a Copa del Rey game against Melilla back in 2018.
2. Has Benzema’s season really been that bad?
The amount of criticism Karim Benzema has been receiving in recent weeks has been insane. And, after he scored his 30th goal of the season tonight, you have to ask if it’s really justified. Sure, this has been far from the Frenchman’s best campaign and he was absent during the two Manchester City legs, but this is still only the sixth time in his career that he has reached 30 goals, and the third season in a row. We should also keep in mind that Benzema has achieved this playing far fewer minutes than he did in any of the past four seasons. If you look at his minutes per goal, Benzema is on one goal every 119 minutes in 2022/23. That’s not actually so bad. While there is genuine reason to be concerned about the No.9 position at Real Madrid, especially if Benzema’s availability keeps declining, surely he deserves a little more respect for achieving a 30-goal campaign.
3. Why wasn’t Álvaro Rodríguez given any minutes in this game?
Despite the Benzema praise above, there was no reason for him to play the full 90 minutes here. Álvaro Rodríguez was sitting right there on the bench, but once again didn’t see the pitch. One of the excuses for his lack of minutes over the past couple of months has been the suggestion that Castilla needed him on weekends more than the first team did. But, there was no Castilla fixture this midweek, so Álvaro could absolutely have played. It’s strange that Ancelotti has gone from defiantly stating that the 18-year-old will be in next season’s first-team squad to barely using him.