Real Madrid stutter in title race with draw at Rayo Vallecano

By Sports Desk February 18, 2024

Real Madrid’s title push faltered in the absence of injured top scorer Jude Bellingham as they surrendered a lead to draw 1-1 at struggling Rayo Vallecano.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men looked set to cruise to victory against their lowly city neighbours following a third-minute finish from Joselu.

But the LaLiga leaders missed the chance to move eight points clear after Raul de Tomas’ 27th-minute penalty earned Rayo a deserved derby point in their first match under new boss Inigo Perez.

Real’s advantage at the top could be cut to three points on Monday evening when nearest challengers Girona travel to fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao.

An underwhelming outing for the 14-time European champions was compounded in added time by the dismissal of substitute Dani Carvajal for two quickfire yellow cards.

Following a 1-0 Champions League win at RB Leipzig, Real were once again without 20-goal England star Bellingham due to an ankle issue as they made the short trip to out-of-form opposition who changed head coach in midweek.

Rayo appointed 36-year-old Perez on Wednesday after sacking Francisco Rodriguez the previous day on the back of just one win in 14 league games dating back to October.

The hosts endured a nightmare start to the new era as Real edged ahead inside three minutes thanks to a rapid counter-attack.

After visiting goalkeeper Andriy Lunin survived a nervy moment, Brahim Diaz released Federico Valverde down the right and his low cross was dispatched into the bottom right corner by a first-time finish from the unmarked Joselu.

Former Stoke and Newcastle forward Joselu, who was forced to wait for an incorrect offside call to be overturned for his opener to be awarded, had the ball in the net again in the 19th minute.

However, on this occasion, his close-range header was ruled out as the assistant referee was correct in adjudging the ball had gone out of play prior to Valverde crossing from the right.

Real at that stage appeared in complete control but Rayo took advantage of a VAR-awarded spot-kick to level.

Replays showed Oscar Trejo’s powerful effort was deflected over by the right fist of Eduardo Camavinga and former Real forward De Tomas confidently converted high down the centre of the goal to open his account for the season.

Real struggled to regain their rhythm, albeit the lively Valverde struck the outside of the left post with a long-range volley after Luka Modric’s corner was partially cleared.

Defensive dithering from Aurelien Tchouameni almost let in Alvaro Garcia immediately after the restart as Real’s unconvincing afternoon continued.

The away side enjoyed plenty of possession but lacked penetration as time ticked away.

Toni Kroos brought a superb save out of Rayo goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski with a direct free-kick from distance, while fellow Real substitute Rodrygo had penalty appeals waved away after going to ground easily.

Spain full-back Carvajal, who came on in the 75th minute, then departed prematurely after petulantly lashing out at Kike Perez.

And the lacklustre visitors could have few complaints about dropping points for only the sixth time this season as Rayo marked the start of Perez’s reign with a surprise result.

Related items

  • Bernardo Silva: I went through many emotions from penalty miss to Wembley winner Bernardo Silva: I went through many emotions from penalty miss to Wembley winner

    Bernardo Silva admitted he had been through a range of emotions after bouncing back from his European penalty heartache with an FA Cup semi-final winner.

    The Portugal midfielder scored Manchester City’s late clincher as the holders ground out a hard-fought 1-0 win over Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday to book a return to the final.

    It came less than three days after he had badly fluffed his lines with a poor spot-kick as City were agonisingly knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid in a draining encounter on Wednesday.

    Silva released a lot of emotion in a vigorous celebration after his 84th-minute strike and he revealed that was culmination of a lot of factors.

    He said: “After a very frustrating week for all of us it’s good to get back on the winning side and qualify for another final and another chance to win a trophy. We’re happy.

    “Wednesday was a frustrating night for me. It was tough. First night, I didn’t sleep much. Second night, you sleep a bit better, the third night you sleep almost the whole night.

    “It is what it is. It’s football, it’s our profession and we have to deal with those emotions.

    “The way this team reacts is always really good. Once again we showed character and that no matter what happens, we stick together and go for it.”

    Silva – one of two City players to miss in the shootout loss along with Mateo Kovacic – was embarrassed as he chipped tamely into the hands of Real goalkeeper Andriy Lunin from the spot.

    He said that he had seen Lunin move early for the previous penalty, taken by Julian Alvarez, and felt striking down the middle would be a good idea.

    Silva said: “I was waiting, I wanted to be the second or the third penalty to see the reaction from the keeper in the first or the first two penalties.

    “And he moved early, that’s why I thought the middle was good because in moments of pressure the keepers, 99 per cent of the time, they move. But he chose not to move and fair play to him, well done.”

    Silva denied a theory that the delay to his penalty, caused by the ball needing to be retrieved from the crowd, had affected him mentally.

    He said: “For me, no. My decision was made. I was going shoot the penalty in the middle.”

    City showed the resolve of champions to hang in and edge out Chelsea, who dominated the tie at Wembley.

    The Londoners were left to rue wasting a host of chances, with misfiring striker Nicolas Jackson the prime culprit. They were also frustrated not to be awarded a penalty after a Cole Palmer free-kick struck the arm of Jack Grealish.

    Veteran defender Thiago Silva said: “I think it’s laughable. I don’t like to talk about the referees, especially after a defeat as it looks like an excuse, but I believe VAR could have sent the ref to the monitor.

    “If he goes to the monitor and decides not to give a pen, I’m fine with it, but go and see it.”

    Silva, 39, is out of contract at the end of the season and promised to reveal his future plans soon.

    The Brazilian said: “You are going to know in the coming days. I don’t want to say anything now after a defeat, I’m sad about the result, but sooner or later the news will come out.

    “I do have a decision made in my mind, but it’s not the moment to share it.”

  • Man City match-winner Bernardo Silva: FA ‘don’t care’ about players’ wellbeing Man City match-winner Bernardo Silva: FA ‘don’t care’ about players’ wellbeing

    Match-winner Bernardo Silva has accused the Football Association of not caring about the wellbeing of players over the scheduling of Manchester City’s FA Cup semi-final.

    Silva scored the late clincher as a weary-looking City ground out a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday to book a second-successive final appearance.

    Yet – after the game – manager Pep Guardiola hit out at the decision to make City play less than three days after they were taken to a penalty shootout in their draining Champions League quarter-final loss to Real Madrid.

    He contrasted this to the preparation time afforded to Sunday’s semi-finalists Manchester United and Coventry, neither of whom had midweek fixtures, and branded the situation “unacceptable”.

    Those sentiments were echoed by Silva, who felt City had been treated unfairly.

    The Portuguese said: “We didn’t play on a level field because the FA didn’t give us a chance to recover, which in my opinion is not reasonable at all.

    “I’m saying this because we won. If we didn’t win, I wouldn’t say it because I don’t like to find excuses, but I don’t think it’s acceptable we had to play (on Saturday).

    “It’s too much. We played 120 minutes less than three days (prior) and we had to play against a team that didn’t travel because they’re from London.

    “And they had five days waiting for us and thinking about our game. There’s no excuse for the game to not be Sunday. It’s not acceptable. For all of us as a team, that’s how we feel.

    “It looks like they don’t care because we’ve said it many times. It’s not about wanting to be favourites, it’s about health.”

    Silva feels there could be greater consideration given to the impact of European competitions on players when domestic fixtures are scheduled.

    He said: “I wasn’t fine at all. I’ll be honest, I was feeling my left hamstring and my right calf. This is not fair for Man City, for us.

    “I say Man City – maybe other clubs went through it. This is just our personal experience.

    “They have to pay more attention to these details. We represent England in these European competitions and it’s important for England, for this country, for other clubs to qualify for the Champions League, Europa League, Conference League. So they need to pay more attention.”

    The FA has not commented directly but its position on such matters is that the needs of the clubs, local authorities, police and broadcasters all need to be considered and balanced. It schedules all ties collaboratively.

    In this case, the matter is also complicated by Chelsea having a rearranged Premier League game against Arsenal next Tuesday.

  • Tottenham confirm Destiny Udogie’s season is over Tottenham confirm Destiny Udogie’s season is over

    Tottenham have confirmed left-back Destiny Udogie will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his left thigh.

    Udogie has flourished in his first campaign in the Premier League and made 30 appearances in all competitions for Spurs.

    The Italian defender has caught the eye with his ventures into midfield under Ange Postecoglou but he revealed on Saturday night his 2023-24 campaign was over.

    Spurs said in a statement on their website: “We can confirm that Destiny Udogie has undergone surgery to his left quadriceps, having sustained an injury in training earlier this week.

    “The defender will continue his rehabilitation with our medical staff and is expected to rejoin the squad during pre-season.”

    News of Udogie’s injury is untimely for a Tottenham team who lost 4-0 at Newcastle last weekend. Spurs lost ground in the battle for Champions League qualification as a result and are currently three points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.