Real Madrid score early, hang on to win against Rayo Vallecano

MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 15: Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Rayo Vallecano de Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 15, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 15: Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Rayo Vallecano de Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 15, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid hosted bottom dwellers Rayo on Matchday 16 of La Liga. Here’s a look at the team’s performance.

After Real Madrid’s 0-3 disturbing loss to CSKA Moscow, the men in white were back at home for another match. Real hosted Rayo Vallecano who sit second from the bottom in the league standings. Los Blancos played a strong match against Rayo dominating in nearly every facet of the game.

Santiago Solari played a strong eleven, not taking chances with his starting lineup. Notable absentees were Casemiro who continues to recover from his injury and Gareth Bale who picked up an injury in the midweek. Isco still failed to make it onto the pitch as part of the starting XI.

Real Madrid played in its typical 4-3-3 formation which worked wonderfully over 90 minutes. The cohesion and movement of the players on and off the ball were scintillating to watch. Madrid was dominant over two halves playing a very strong game as Solari urged his men to push high and fast.

First Half

Madrid started strong, just what Solari and the fans wanted to see. The tactics were reminiscent of Zidane’s during his time at Real Madrid. Playing a high line with Lucas Vazquez up top proved to be a great decision by Solari, as the number 17 provided plenty of energy.

It took just 13 minutes for Real Madrid to get on the scoreboard. A beautiful link up with Vazquez and Karim Benzema put Madrid up 1-0. Benzema’s intelligent turn and shot selection are what was impressive. Despite the goalie coming at him, he fired the ball past the Rayo keeper on the far side.

Many players had a strong performance in the first half, but it was Marcos Llorente who stood out once again. Due to Casemiro’s absence, the young Spaniard got the go-ahead once again. Throughout the match, he hustled hard to recover the ball whenever his side lost possession.

Llorente completed 100 percent of his passes in the opening stanza going 37/37. Marcos is making a case for himself and giving the manager a lot to think about even when Casemiro does regain complete fitness.

In the last few minutes of the first-half, Rayo stepped up their game creating some chances of their own. Despite that though, the first-half stats showed that Madrid dominated.

Carrying just under 80 percent of the possession, they managed to fire off six shots with three meeting the target. Toni Kroos had the best chance to double Madrid’s after his blistering shot smacked the post before the halftime whistle.

Second Half

Madrid has failed to keep the tempo up on several occasions this season and paid the price, however, this time was different. Los Blancos picked up where they left off coming out of the tunnel. Excellent passing and movement from Madrid frustrated Rayo, as a result, they committed 18 fouls.

Marco Asensio had a couple of chances throughout the match, more notably in the second half, but wasn’t able to seal the deal. His two shots did meet the target but weren’t enough to get passed the Rayo keeper.

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From a set piece, captain Sergio Ramos seemed to have had the brace before the referees called it back due to offside. Solari made use of all his substitutes in the second half, bringing on Dani Ceballos, Vinicius Júnior, and Federico Valverde.

The final moments of the game got dicey with Rayo nearly scoring and equalizing in additional time. A bicycle kick saved by Courtois lead to mayhem in the box, thankfully Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal were there to keep Vallecano at bay.

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