Real Madrid secured a home win to bounce back from defeat to Valencia as they scored a late winner to run out 2-1 victors against Rayo Vallecano at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Wednesday night.
Los Blancos went ahead early on courtesy of a Karim Benzema strike, but ex-Real Madrid man Raúl de Tomás came back to haunt his former club as he beat Thibaut Courtois at his near post. In the end, it was Rodrygo Goes who scored the winner at the death with a strike from the edge of the box.
Here are three stats which help to explain the game.
88 minutes, 33 seconds: Real Madrid’s latest decisive goal in a LaLiga game since May 2021
There has been no shortage of late goals for decide games and change results in recent years for Real Madrid. However, it’s also true that they have almost exclusively come in European competitions. From Manchester City in last season’s Champions League to Villarreal in this year’s Copa del Rey, there have been several late goals to keep Real Madrid alive and get them the result needed, but this late winner from Rodrygo Goes was the first time that Los Blancos have scored a result-changing goal so late on since Karim Benzema scored a winner against Villarreal on 91 minutes, 36 seconds, on May 22, 2021.
It was also an important goal for the Brazilian. He continues to step up in the absence of his compatriot Vinícius Júnior, as he did against Cádiz recently, and scored his seventh goal of the LaLiga campaign, equalling his tally of the past three seasons this year alone. Just like this stat, he has been prolific in Europe, but goals in domestic competition had been harder to come by.
As he burst through and curled a low effort into the bottom corner, he cut through Rayo Vallecano like a hot knife through butter. He showed the kind of composure and cutting edge that has been missing at times in recent weeks and proved why Carlo Ancelotti has made him a first team staple as we near the end of the season.
30: Goals this season for Karim Benzema, his fifth time achieving the feat for Real Madrid
With his opening goal in this game, Karim Benzema scored his 11th goal against Rayo Vallecano from 12 meetings with the Madrid-based team, but also crucially reached the landmark figure of 30 goals in all competitions for the season. It is the third consecutive campaign in which he has reached the figure, and continues to underline his importance to this team.
The reason for it being such an important achievement is that it moves him ahead of a rather illustrious group including Alfredo di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás and Hugo Sánchez, all of whom scored 30 goals in four different campaigns. Only Cristiano Ronaldo can match or surpass Benzema’s five, as he achieved the landmark figure on a record nine occasions.
Benzema’s legacy is undeniable and even now at the age of 35, he continued to be a hugely important player. Having endured his longest goal drought in three years heading into this game, he would have been relieved to bury his first chance and convert. He did so in true Benzema fashion as he rounded Stole Dimitrievski, showing all the talent that he has to offer and that has seen him score 30 goals this season alone.
13: Duels won by Toni Kroos, the most since February 2019
One of the surprises of this fixture was to see a stand-out display from German midfielder Toni Kroos, who showed almost no sign of his advancing age to turn back the clock. His performance was one which almost single-handedly won the midfield battle against a Rayo Vallecano side who have gone toe to toe with the very best this season.
On the ball, he completed an impressive 95 passes from an attempted 99, showing his usual cutting edge and vision, while also creating two chances and drawing four fouls. Rayo quickly identified that if they were to cut off any chance of Real Madrid success on the night, they would have to stop moves at the source and resorted to going in harder on the number eight and Eduardo Camavinga. They drew nine fouls between them, while no other Real Madrid player was fouled more than once.
Off the ball, nobody did. Better job of regaining possession. In total he won 13 duels from 19 attempts, his highest figures for such stats in some time. A 1-1 draw with Barcelona on February 6th, 2019, was the last time that he surpassed the figure, over four years ago. It truly was an all-action display with Kroos getting stuck in. While other players may be guilty of stepping off the gas with nothing really left to play for at the end of the season, that accusation certainly cannot be thrown in the direction of Kroos.