As far as early Christmas presents go, this will do nicely for Rafa Benitez. A 10-2 thrashing over a spirited Rayo Vallecano on Saturday has moved them to within two points of rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, as well as papering over a few, deep cracks.
Given the Copa Del Rey debacle and recent loss to Villarreal, a huge League win was sorely needed to ease the pressure on the Spaniard’s shoulders – not that it was all plain-sailing on Sunday. The headlines on Monday morning spoke of Gareth Bale’s four-goal haul, Karim Benzema’s clinical hat-trick and – to a lesser degree – Rayo’s two red cards.
What will quickly be forgotten, however, is just how awful Madrid were in the 10 minutes after they scored the opening goal. Seldom does one find negatives within a 10-2 win; however it was a match Los Blancos were able to salvage due to the oppositions’ recklessness and some questionable refereeing decisions.
Rayo rallied back from a goal down to take a shock lead with two goals in as many minutes as the increasingly-familiar whistles at the Santiago Bernabeu returned, but what came next was a one of the most unbelievable bouts of capitulation and self-implosion one is ever likely to see in a football match.
Rayo saw red twice in 15 minutes and shipped nine goals; but credit where it’s due, Los Vallecanos came to the Bernabeu to attack. Pragmatism is unlikely to be a word in Paco Jemez’s vocabulary. Ahead of Saturday’s match, he gave a slight hint to his intentions and his own temperament.
“On the day they were handing out brains, I ended up with a small one, but when they handed out balls, I got the biggest,” he proclaimed.
This more than likely also explains why he chose to bring on Bebe – a winger – while his side were 7-2 down and two men light. It may not be wise, but it is commendable and decisions like these make La Liga extremely watchable. Few sides come to the Bernabeu to play football, and even madridista’s were thankful that Paco’s side continued to attack, even though the match was well beyond their reach.
However, it would be unfair to say that the match was simply handed to Madrid. Yes, certain parts of the game went for them, but any team capable of reaching double figures are still very much deserving of praise.
Offensively, it was as good a performance as Benitez could expect. Eighteen goals in their last two home matches may slowly put to bed any fears fans had about the Coach over-emphasising defensive stability to the detriment of attacking intent.
Bale doubled his League goals tally for the season in a single match, one which will go down as one of his best games in a Madrid shirt as he still aims to justify his weighty price tag more than two seasons on.
And with eight goals in his last four matches, Benzema seems to be putting his recent off-the-field behind him. James Rodriguez also deserves a mention thanks to his hat-trick of assists, while Cristiano Ronaldo proved he hadn’t lost his goalscoring touch either.
Though the start was shaky, in the end it made easy watching for Benitez, and perhaps he may be able to rest a little easier over the Christmas break.