Match Report: Rayo Vallecano 0-2 Real Madrid
(Ronaldo 68, James Rodriguez 73)
La Liga, Vallecas
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 300th goal for Real Madrid to help keep his side in the Liga title race with a 2-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday night.
James Rodriguez also found the back of the net as Madrid scored twice in five second-half minutes to see Madrid come out of a tricky match at Vallecas with three hard-earned points.
It was fair from plain sailing for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, who were out-fought and out-passed in the first half against a Rayo side who had won their last four home matches and who were in their best form of the season.
Rayo had almost 60 per cent of the ball in the first half but their hard work eventually saw them tire after the hour mark and Madrid, who came out looking much sharper after the break, took advantage.
The only sour points of an otherwise good night for Madrid were the bookings of Cristiano Ronaldo, a controversial one for diving, Toni Kroos and James which will keep them out of Saturday’s game against Eibar.
Gareth Bale was fit enough to start despite suffering from a knock to the foot in the weekend win at Granada while James was preferred to Isco in midfield. Dani Carvajal replaced the suspended Alvaro Arbeloa at right-back.
Madrid had to respond to Barcelona’s 4-0 thrashing of Almeria just before if they wanted to stay in the title race but it was on-song Rayo, playing with their usual attacking verve under boss Paco Jemez, who looked the more likely to score in the opening 45 minutes.
Former Castilla man Alberto Bueno was thwarted by Iker Casillas early on and Chelsea loan man Gael Kakuta saw another long-range effort whistle over. Madrid’s best early chances came from Ronaldo and James.
Madrid thought they had the breakthrough when Bale superbly controlled a through ball from Luka Modric before placing the finish into the back of the net but the effort was chalked off for offside.
The hosts were the better side in the first half, however, and Manucho had another chance before Casillas showcased his fast reactions to deny former Barcelona man Roberto Trashorras late in the first half.
Madrid improved after the break and James and Bale linked well early on with the Colombian sending an inviting cross in for Bale, who headed just over the upright.
Ronaldo’s controversial booking followed shortly after when he fell inside the box. The referee adjudged the Portuguese star to have dived but replays showed La Liga’s top-scorer had a strong for a penalty.
Bale, Marcelo and Benzema all fired shots on goal as Madrid upper their gear before the opener came in the 68th minute. It was all through good work from Carvajal down the right, with the full-back racing down the right before crossing for Ronaldo to head home from point-blank range.
James’s side pushed for a leveller but that made things more open for Madrid and James exploited that space five minutes after Ronaldo struck with a neat finish from the edge of the box to make it 2-0.
Manucho and Tito had good chances to make it a nervous finish for Madrid but they could not make them count.
Rayo: Cristian, Tito, Zé Castro, Amaya, Nacho, Fatau, Trashorras, Kakuta, Bueno, Embarba, Manucho.
Madrid: Casillas, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, James, Modric, Kroos, Bale, Benzema, Cristiano.