Rayo Vallecano vs. Real Madrid: 6 Things We Learned from La Liga Match
Real Madrid survived a Rayo Vallecano comeback in the second half to prevail 3-2 and move back to within six points of Barcelona.
Excitement is always expected when Madrid make the short trip to Vallecas, and Saturday night's clash did not disappoint.
Cristiano Ronaldo (2) and Karim Benzema helped Los Blancos take a 3-0 lead, only for Rayo to fight back through two Jonathan Viera penalties.
And but for Diego Lopez, Rayo may well have completed an unlikely comeback.
They didn't though, and Madrid returned to within six points of Barcelona—here's what we learned from the mini-Madrid derby.
Work needs to begin on an acronym for Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema
RBB? RB&B? BRB?
It looks like Carlo Ancelotti may have found a front three which needs leaving exactly as it is.
In the last two games they have started together, the amount of goals produced and created by Ronaldo, Benzema and Gareth Bale has been staggering.
The Portuguese forward has scored five, the Frenchman three—plus an assist—while the Welshman has bagged two and created four more.
But what's going on at the back?
All seven of Madrid's main defenders have been involved in the last two games, and none are left covered in glory, having surrendered five goals.
Of those five, three have been from the penalty spot, while Ivan Rakitic missed the opportunity to make that four on Wednesday night.
Against Rayo, Marcelo gave away an unnecessary penalty and Dani Carvajal had to be taken off before he was sent off—though perhaps he should have been sent off.
Madrid's forwards can't be expected to score three, four or five goals to win every game.
Or can they?
Ancelotti's midfield puzzle continues
If Madrid's midfield was a jigsaw, it would have been laid out on a table in Ancelotti's study for the last few months and his wife would be asking if he's ever going to finish it.
The Italian may point to a key piece having missed the majority of the season, though.
On Saturday night, Xabi Alonso returned to Los Blancos' starting lineup, partnering Luka Modric—who wonderfully created the opening goal—with Angel di Maria slightly further forward.
It was yet another new combination in the middle of the park, with Sami Khedira and Asier Illarramendi featured regularly, too.
Alonso will presumably become a staple now—he was taken off as a precaution at halftime and his absence was telling in the second period.
El Clasico came two weeks too soon (from an attacking view point)
With the attacking supremacy Madrid have shown in their last two matches, it seems as though that defeat at Camp Nou last weekend came slightly too soon.
After putting seven past Sevilla on Wednesday, Benzema, Bale and Ronaldo continued to bond in Vallecas.
It looks like Ancelotti's side may have arrived at the party in some areas, while they remain lacking in others.
Now, about cutting down that six-point cushion the Catalans have over them at the top of the table.
Rayo Vallecano for the drop
But for financial difficulties, Rayo would have been playing in Europe this year—next year they could be in La Segunda.
It's frustrating to hear for the neutral, who has fallen in love with Rayo's exciting style, but it's the obvious symptom of conceding too many and not scoring enough.
Only Granada and Real Betis have scored less; nobody has leaked more.
And with Paco Jemez, understandably reluctant to change his side's system and go back on his word, relegation is unfortunately a real possibility in Vallecas despite the second half performance against Madrid.
That said, if they can take something—anything—from that second 45 minutes, they'll give themselves a chance.
When your luck's out, it's out
While Rayo are often their own enemies when it comes to losing games, they were dealt a cruel blow at a key stage of the game against Madrid.
Iago Falque, on loan from Tottenham, though he equalised at the far post, had the flag suspiciously raised.
He was nowhere near offside, but his effort clipped Jonathan Viera on the way in—it was about to hit the back of the net anyway.
Less than a minute later Benzema added Madrid's second.
Later, only an inspired Lopez and a little rub of the green prevented them from completing a famous comeback.
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