Something miraculous happened in Madrid last Saturday. No, not an alien abduction or a sighting of the Virgin Mary, something much more incredible than that. Rayo Vallecano kept a clean sheet.
After a quite remarkable run of nine Primera Division games in which the Franjirrojos had conceded 28 goals, finally an afternoon came when goalkeeper David Cobeno did not have to pick the ball out of his net.
For a while it looked like his Real Mallorca counterpart Dudu Aouate wouldn’t have to either, but late goals from Leo Baptistao and Andrija Delibasic gave Rayo a 2-0 win over the islanders at the Campo de Vallecas, and allowed them to end the weekend in a more than respectable eighth position.
“I have to congratulate everyone,” said tactician Paco Jemez. “We have mitigated our little flaws and kept a clean sheet, which is worth a lot.”
Coaching in La Liga for the first time this season, former Deportivo La Coruna defender Jemez has proved to be an engaging and unconventional character, his performances in the Press room almost as entertaining as his team’s showings on the pitch.
The 42-year-old is one of that rare breed whose coaching career is the antithesis of his playing one – a former defender fixated upon flamboyant, attacking football.
“Just because I was a certain kind of player does not mean that I did not like good football or drool in watching the likes of Bebeto, Mauro Silva, Martin Vazquez, Savo Milosevic, Kily Gonzalez, Fran,” he told El Pais back in September. “I played where I had to play, in an orchestra not everyone plays the piano, you also need the violin, trumpet etc.”
His Rayo orchestra have alternated moments of beautiful harmony with bum notes this season, scoring prestigious away wins over Real Betis and Malaga but losing 4-0 to Real Sociedad and 6-1 to newly promoted Real Valladolid. They have the League’s worst defensive record, but, only six clubs have scored more.
Like his players, Jemez regularly runs the risk of being left red faced, with his zealous commitment to attractive football. In October he claimed he would be embarrassed to play like Celtic did in their 2-1 defeat to Barcelona, only to then watch his own side be thrashed 5-0 by the Blaugrana.
Some perspective is needed, though. Rayo needed a 91st minute goal on the last day to preserve their La Liga status last season. Since then they have lost Michu, Raul Tamudo and Diego Costa, to name but a few.
Surely, if they are in the top 10 - just a point away from a Europa League qualification berth - with a third of this campaign gone, then it doesn’t matter what type of football they played to get there?
Those that recognise the parallels with last season, when Rayo were the highest scorers outside the top six and spent most of the campaign in mid-table yet where still subjected to that last day drama, may not agree however.
That’s why Saturday’s clean sheet is a big deal, and the fact it was followed by another last night, even if it wasn’t enough to avert Copa del Rey elimination at the hands of Jemez’s hometown club Las Palmas, is encouraging.