Los Blancos earned a hard-fought victory to get their season heading back in the right direction after a poor start their domestic campaign
The teams had to wait nearly 24 hours to get going after the cables to the floodlights at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas in what Vallecano president Martin Presa labeled an act of “sabotage,” but Los Blancos wasted no time when the game finally kicked off this evening, taking the lead just 13 minutes in.
Marcelo’s classy backheel in midfield beat the first line of an anarchic press from the hosts and set Madrid off a sweeping move that ended with Angel Di Maria sending in a low cross for Benzema to tap into an empty net at the back post.
Michael Essien and Luka Modric got the nod ahead of German midfield duo Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil, and Modric almost grabbed his first goal for the club when he found himself unmarked 12 yards from goal shortly before the half-hour mark, but sent his shot straight at the keeper.
Jose Mourinho’s side came into the game on the back of a three-match losing streak away from home in all competitions, having already lost as many games as they did in the whole of last season, and had to survive a scare half an hour in when Iker Casillas did well to stop Andrija Delibasic’s header before Mikel Labaka’s follow up was cleared off the line by the chest of Xabi Alonso.
Rayo had lost its last eight matches against with Madrid, with the club's last victory against Los Blancos arriving 15 years ago, and rallied after going close to an equalizer. As promised by coach Paco Jémez, the hosts’ approach was admirable, but they always looked in danger of being caught on the break.
And so it was Madrid which went closest before halftime, Benzema finding space in the position Ronaldo has vacated before seeing his curled effort batted away by Ruben in the Vallecano goal.
Vallecano should have been level five minutes after the break, when Alvaro Arbeloa’s back-pass was sent straight to Delibasic inside the area, but the big Montenegro international couldn't remain in control with only Casillas to beat.
Benzema appeared to have doubled Madrid’s lead on the hour, only to have his goal ruled out when, after seemingly having stopped for an incorrect offside decision. Di Maria was awarded a useless free kick on the halfway line. Madrid’s inability to control possession in midfield was highlighted by Xabi Alonso picking up a booking for a rugby tackle on Lass Bangoura after they once lost the ball in midfield.
Modric faded out of the game in the second half and was replaced by Ozil with 25 minutes remaining, shortly after Jose Carlos shot narrowly over from outside the area.
Madrid won the corresponding fixture last season by a single goal, with Ronaldo´s wonderful back-heel settling a tight contest. The Portuguese international was making his 47th consecutive La Liga appearance and he doubled his side’s lead from the spot with 20 minutes remaining after his attempted cross hit the arm of a sprawling Jordi Amat.
Ronaldo should have put the game to bed a few minute later, but somehow managed to hit the post with the goal gaping from six yards after substitute Gonzalo Higuain had squared. But ultimately it proved nothing more than a slight embarrassment for Ronaldo during what was an often nervy display from Mourinho’s men. A miserable night for Casado was complete when he was dismissed in stoppage time, picking up second booking after a needless foul on Ozil.
There will be plenty to work on for Mourinho this week, not least his side's propensity to needlessly give the ball away. After the points they’ve already dropped this season, however, that won’t matter tonight.