Real Madrid survived Sergio Ramos’s early dismissal to beat city rivals Rayo Vallecano 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Jose Mourinho made four changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Manchester United on Wednesday, but Real Madrid needed little to adjust and came soaring out of the blocks. Alvraro Morata was the most surprising inclusion as he made his first league start, but he capped it in style with a goal after just three minutes. Less than 10 minutes later it was 2-0 as Ramos was allowed a clear header at goal from Mesut Ozil’s free-kick.
In a frantic beginning, Madrid’s early rampage was halted when Ramos extraordinarily received two yellow cards in the space of a minute to receive, incredibly, a 17th red card of his career.
There were four enforced absences for Madrid, with Alvaro Arbeloa, Gonzalo Higuain and Luka Modrc suspended as well as Xabi Alonso missing though injury. Mourinho also elected to rest Angel Di Maria and Karim Benzema, although particularly in Benzema’s case that description may be being kind given his poor performance against United.
Those promoted to the first 11 by Mourinho made an immediate impact as Kaka oplayed his part in feeding Mesut Ozil on the right and the German’s low ball across goal was tucked away inside the post by 20-year-old Morata.
Rayo, on course for their best ever finish in La Liga, were handicapped by the absence of coach Paco Jemez and they had apparently not got the message about Madrid’s strength on the counter attack. The home side’s lead could have been doubled even quiker than it was as Kaka flashed a shot wide into the side netting.
It was an end-to-end opening, though, and Rayo also threatened and perhaps should have done better when Alejandro Dominguez flashed a shot wide across goal.
But the visitor’s defense let them down once more 12 minutes in. Javi Fugo committed a cardinal sin in allowing Ramos to get ahead of him at the near post to meet Ozil’s in-swinging free-kick and head with conviction into the net.
Ramos’s joy would be short-lived. First he dragged Roberto Trashorras down from behind to receive his first yellow card and then less than a minute later he received his second as he blocked the ball with a raised arm. The decision was undoubtedly harsh on the Spanish defender, but by the letter of the law the referee was correct.
Ramos’s dismissal unfortunately meant an early end to Morata’s night as he was sacrificed for Raul Albiol to reinforce the defense.
The loss of a man understandably made Madrid’s approach more pragmatic. Still, they almost went further ahead in the 36th minute, but after taking the ball past the goalkeeper from Ozil’s low ball to the near post, Ronaldo could only find the side netting from a tight angle.
Rayo were struggling to make inroads, despite their numerical advantage, but could have reduced their arrears in the last minute of the half. Former Real Madrid Castilla player Trashorras really should have done better than blast over when in space just inside the box.
The visitors should have had a chance to half their deficit soon after the break too. The ball clearly struck Fabio Coentrao’s raised arm as he went to clear a corner, but, while they were punished for Ramos’s handball earlier in the contest, Madrid escaped conceding a penalty.
In truth, Madrid never looked like relinquishing their lead. Lass fired perhaps their best opportunity of the second period wide of the near post. The best chances continued to fall to Madrid, with Sami Khedira missing a golden chance to put the result beyond doubt as he side-footed wide after more good work from the impressive Kaka.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.