Real Madrid 2-1 Rayo Vallecano: Rodrygo late show snatches the points as Vinicius watches on
Vinicius Junior watched on from the stands as his fellow Brazilian Rodrygo sealed a 2-1 victory for Real Madrid against Rayo Vallecano in LaLiga.
Madrid winger Vinicius was racially abused by Valencia supporters during Los Blancos' defeat at Mestalla Stadium on Sunday, with the winger then sent off.
With that red card rescinded, injury kept Vinicius from featuring against Rayo on Wednesday, though Karim Benzema's finish had seemingly set Madrid on their way to a comfortable victory.
Raul de Tomas' excellent strike pegged Madrid back, but Rodrygo lashed home in the 89th minute to lift Los Blancos, temporarily at least, into second place.
Rayo were the more threatening in the opening exchanges – Alvaro Garcia heading over between Unai Lopez and Santi Comesana forcing Thibaut Courtois into action.
Yet Madrid went ahead just after the half-hour mark as Rayo were caught napping at a drop-ball, which was taken quickly by Toni Kroos. Federico Valverde and Benzema combined brilliantly to put the latter through and, after coolly rounding Stole Dimitrievski, he tucked home.
Moments after an untimely slip from Rodrygo saw a golden chance go begging for Madrid, Dimitrievski brilliantly denied Benzema a second, instinctively sticking out a hand to keep a close-range shot out.
Dani Carvajal volleyed wide from Luka Modric's chip as Madrid looked to put the game to bed, a wise decision given their record of two defeats from their previous four meetings with Rayo.
Madrid's failure to add to their lead looked to have cost them with six minutes remaining, substitute De Tomas thumping in a brilliant equaliser.
But Rodrygo had the last laugh with his powerful last-gasp strike, with the 22-year-old raising his right fist in a celebration synonymous with the "black power" salute.
What does it mean? Fans unite behind Vinicius
While Madrid will be eager to snatch second place ahead of rivals Atletico Madrid, Wednesday's match was always going to be overshadowed by the treatment of Vinicius during that clash with Valencia, and over the course of the season in general.
The Santiago Bernabeu was fully behind him, though. Prior to kick-off, fans at one end of the stadium held up a banner reading: "We're all Vinicius. Enough already." During the match, Vinicius received a round of applause at the 20-minute mark.
LaLiga president Javier Tebas has also now apologised to the Brazil international, who will be looking for action, not words, from the authorities.
Benzema hits 30... again
After an outstanding 2021-22 campaign, Benzema has not quite managed to scale the same heights this term.
But even when not at his very best, the forward is such a stellar finisher that he has still managed 30 goals across all competitions.
Benzema has now netted at least 30 goals in each of the last three campaigns, after hitting that landmark tally only twice in his previous 11 seasons with Madrid.
Milestone up for Don Carlo
Ancelotti has now coached Madrid in 150 league matches, with his record standing at 106 wins, 21 draws and 23 defeats.
He is the fourth coach in Madrid's history to reach 150 LaLiga games, after Miguel Munoz (424), Zinedine Zidane (183) and Vicente del Bosque (153).
Key Opta Facts
- Benzema has scored 11 goals in 12 games against Rayo in LaLiga, an average of 0.92 per game.
- Only Erling Haaland has been involved in more goals (30 – 25 goals, five assists) than Benzema (27 – 22 goals, five assists) among players from the top five European leagues in all competitions in 2023.
- Valverde has provided seven assists with Real Madrid in all competitions this season, only one less than in his first four campaigns with Los Blancos.
- Rayo have lost their last 11 away games against Real Madrid in LaLiga.
- Rodrygo has scored seven goals for Madrid in LaLiga this season (32 games), the same total that he managed across his previous three seasons at the club (74 appearances).
Madrid face Europa League finalists Sevilla on Saturday, while Rayo host Villarreal.