Rayo Vallecano are a decent side - great to watch for spectators because they like to play and let their opponents play too. That is ideal for a team like Real Madrid for precisely that reason, because Rayo aren’t a side who will just sit back and defend; that opens up possibilities for other teams to suddenly hit them on the break - an area where Vinicius can exploit his talents. And that was how Madrid opened up a two-goal lead during the first half of Saturday’s game. It also benefitted Asensio who was tasked with manning the right wing, a position which is up for grabs. He made a decent claim to make the position his own - gone was the apathy we have seen from him in previous games, he was lively and purposeful, eager to help out his team mates and was spot on with his decision-making. On this occasion, he wasn’t made to look inferior playing alongside Vinicius and Benzema.
Falcao sows seeds of doubt in Madrid
That was pretty much how Madrid went in two goals up at the break, and coming out for the second half in search of a third, which they came very close to getting. There was a great individual run from Vinicius - one of those which sticks in the memory even if the ball didn't end up in the back of the net. For a few minutes, Madrid seemed to be enjoying themselves and it was wonderful to watch them attack with such elegance. But it came to an end shortly after Iraola brought on Falcao, who he had kept in reserve due to a muscular problem. He’d hardly been on the pitch five minutes when he made it 2-1, his header taking a deflection off Alaba. Shortly afterwards he was seen in pain on the floor and had to be taken off. In just 10 minutes, the dynamic of the game had completely changed.
Madrid throw all of their good work away
That was because Madrid suddenly started to look hesitant and unsure of themselves while Rayo went for the kill. Madrid’s problem is that when things are going badly for them, they lose control, and fail to tighten up in midfield. It’s no one’s fault in particular, more of a collective issue. It meant that during the final few minutes of the game, they had to withstand constant pressure from Rayo while trying to ignore the whistles and jeers from their own fans voicing their frustration. That insecurity marred all of the good things which Madrid had done in the first hour, when they had done enough to win the game. All it took was for Falcao to pull a goal back for Madrid’s self-confidence to crack and make it look like an equaliser was just around the corner. Like the Shakhtar game, Madrid came away with all three points but once again gave the sensation that it doesn’t take much for anxiety to get to them.