29th April, 2019
In a match that many Real Madrid fans will be quick to point out its irrelevance to their darling team at this stage of the Spanish League, LaLiga strugglers Rayo Vallecano came out tops by defeating their more exposed and popular rivals by a solitary goal.
This match showed to some extent the importance of Karim Benzema as his absence was so glaring. The Real Madrid’s leading scorer Benzema – who has netted the club’s last eight LaLiga goals – is set to miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, and without their talisman to rely on, Los Blancos put in a tame display at Estadio de Vallecas.
The lone goal of the game itself had VAR play a crucial role in Rayo’s first victory over Madrid since 1997, with referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes changing his initial decision not to award the hosts a penalty for a foul by Jesus Vallejo.
As a result of the change in decision, Adrian Embarba duly slotted home from 12 yards and Rayo’s lead was hardly threatened as Madrid succumbed to a defeat that all but ends their hopes of finishing second on the LaLiga table.
Benzema’s absence paved way for Mariano Diaz to make a start in the game. He saw an early chance blocked by Abdoulaye Ba, while Thibaut Courtois denied Jose Pozo an opener at the other end.
Then came a chance for Javi Guerra who looked set to prod home a wonderful Alex Moreno cross soon after, only for Vallejo to get there first.
The next scoring opportunity fell to Gareth Bale’s path only for the fans to see a one-on-one effort saved by Alberto Garcia in goal for Rayo Vallecano.
Thereafter came the only goal of the match as the referee brought the play back and, after consulting with VAR, decided that Vallejo had in fact dragged Guerra down, with Embarba making no mistake from the resultant spot-kick.
The same Embarba almost caught Courtois napping with a cross-shot shortly after the restart, before Madrid’s goalkeeper made a smart stop to deny Bebe.
The host’s goalkeeper, Garcia reacted sharply to keep out a dipping Bale free-kick with 20 minutes remaining, but that was all Madrid could muster as Rayo held firm to secure a famous victory and boost their slim hopes of LaLiga survival in the process.
As a result of Atletico Madrid having beaten Real Valladolid on Saturday, Madrid – winless on the road under Zidane so far – are now nine points behind their neighbours with three games remaining, meaning that just one more point will be enough to secure second place for Diego Simeone’s side.
On the other hand, Rayo Vallecano are now up to 19th position on the log and six points adrift of safety.