Real Madrid probably should have dropped points and fallen farther behind Barcelona on Saturday, but Rayo Vallecano couldn't take advantage of their chances. Despite their excellent effort, Rayo were undone by a few minutes of great qualify by Madrid, who scored enough to hold off a Rayo comeback and win, 3-2.
Things got off to an awful start for Rayo, who looked very much like a relegation fodder side in the opening minutes. Luka Modric set up Cristiano Ronaldo for an opening goal just three minutes in, with Ronaldo nutmegging Alejandro Galvez before finishing from just inside the box.
Rayo looked to have an equalizer in the 28th minute, but it was disallowed for offside. Iago Falque was onside when he got on the end of a cross and headed towards goal, but his effort deflected off Jonathan Viera, who was in an offside position. Three minutes later, Karim Benzema put Madrid up by two goals, heading in a cross by Gareth Bale.
It appeared the rout was on when Bale set up Ronaldo for his second -- an easy tap-in -- in the 48th minute, but the fun was just getting started. In the 53rd minute, Pepe took down Viera in the box, giving Rayo an avenue back into the game, and Viera converted from the spot. Inexplicably, just two minutes later, Marcelo hacked down Alberto Bueno from behind in the box. He was lucky not to get booked, but the referee did point to the spot and Viera converted yet again.
Not long after that, Dani Carvajal was lucky not to pick up a second yellow for a high challenge. Carlo Ancelotti, recognizing the danger his young right back was in, promptly brought on Alvaro Arbeloa to keep his side from going down to 10 men.
Bueno looked to have the equalizer in the 65th minute, but was brilliantly denied by Diego Lopez. His laser of a shot from the edge of the box was just barely touched by Lopez, who was able to tip the ball onto the post. Rayo had another big flurry in the 73rd minute, when Joaquin Larrivey had a shot blocked and Adrian Embarba missed the follow-up just wide.
Rayo continued to push everyone forward and threaten into stoppage time, but failed to find an equalizer. They probably deserved a point from the match, but they weren't as clinical as Los Merengues in front of goal.
Rayo Vallecano: Ruben, Tito, Martinez, Galvez, Arbilla (Larrivey 51'), Lass, Gonzalez (Bueno 42'), Trashorras, Niguez, Falque (Embarba 69'), Viera
Goals: Viera (Pen 53', pen 55')
Real Madrid: Lopez, Coentrao (Marcelo 46'), Pepe, Ramos, Carvajal (Arbeloa 59'), Alonso (Illaramendi 46'), Modric, Di Maria, Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale
Goals: Ronaldo (3', 48'), Benzema (31')