After Rayo Vallecano's recent 2-2 draw with Real Sociedad, a game in which they went ahead twice but couldn’t see it out, their slick midfielder, Jozabed Sanchez, who’d just scored in the game, frustratingly muttered: “I feel good in front of goal, but hey, again it’s a goal which has failed to see us win.”
Prior to his goal against Celta Vigo in Rayo’s overdue 3-0 triumph, this had become an all too familiar pattern of events for the Seville native. Despite having scored an eye-catching six goals going into the Celta fixture this season, for in all the games he’d netted in, Rayo had failed to win any of them.
Impressively, his goals had come against some of the best sides in the division, with the 24-year-old old finding the back of the net vs Barcelona, Getafe, Villarreal, Real Madrid, the aforementioned Sociedad and Valencia. Not bad at all, on a personal level at least, but he must have been wondering what more can he do to get his team over the line. Thankfully, this all changed against the Galician outfit.
Jozabed’s unquestionably been a shining light for Paco Jemez’s stuggling side, who were currently on their worst run of form since 2003, when they were relegated, and hadn’t won since November 7 Last weekend, they came up against Gary Neville's out-of-sorts Valencia, a side who also hadn’t won in the League since November 7 of last year.
Jozabed would've been feeling an inescapable sense of deja vu, however, as just like in the 2-2 draw with La Real, he scored in the fixture, with a sublime, cushioned volley, only for Rayo to draw the game 2-2., an 88th-minute Paco Alcacer goal their undoing on this occasion.
“We’re leaving feeling like fools. They didn’t have to do much to score,” said a disgruntled Jozabed after the match.
An ever-greater frustration rang out from their Coach. “Had Valencia actually won it, I would have hung myself in the dressing room,” a dejected Paco Jemez said. “You’d have found me dangling from my tie.”
Jozabed had every reason to have left Mestalla with his head held high, in a match where his sharpness in possession and all-round contribution arguably saw him claim man-of-the-match honours.
Within what was ostensibly a 4-4-2 deployed by Jemez, Jozabed started in the right centre-forward position. From the outset, it became quickly obvious that Jemez had again given him a great deal of attacking freedom to drift all over the final third of the pitch. This meant he didn’t really have a clearly-defined role, which made things all the more difficult for Valencia to manage him.
He'd pop on the left, on the right, drop deep to link up with his midfielders, while also undertaking stints high on the shoulder of the last defender. A particular feature of his variable movement came in situations when he’d push over to the left wing to combine with Pablo Hernandez, the winger on this flank.
The duo demonstrated their fine understanding to great effect, linking up on no fewer than 15 occasions, which kept Los Che’s right-back, Antonio Barragan, well and truly on his toes, as he really animated things in the final third for Los Franjirrojos
Blessed with a wonderful eye for a pass and competent with the ball at his feet, the technical Jozabed used his strength in these facets of the game brilliantly. He laid on an incredible six key passes, on his way to completing 35 of his 39 attempted passes, using his handy repertoire of passes to continually carve open the Valencia defence. Being equally adept at hitting long balls or more intricate short passes, this ensured he had a major influence in both Rayo’s slower build-up passages and whenever a counterattacking opportunity presented itself.
In typical Rayo fashion under Jemez, he got stuck into his defensive work as he pressed from the front, setting a terrific example for his colleagues behind him to follow. Defensively, his numbers state that he completed two tackles, one interception and three clearances, illustrating his strong stopping exertions.
Ultimately, Rayo just couldn’t hang on for the victory they so badly craved, but Jozabed’s terrific performance, on both sides of the ball, justifiably deserved special mention.
With a game against Deportivo La Coruna up next for the 17th-placed Rayo, you can rest assured Jozabed will be doing everything he can to get his side back on track after their horrible run of form, which had seen them unable to register a win in nine matches.
It was only going to be a matter of time before his attacking qualities propelled Rayo to a much-needed victory. The win over Eduardo Berizzo’s men lifted Rayo out of the relegation zone, but if they’re to stay out of it, they’ll be hoping his hometown club Sevilla, who he rose through the youth ranks with, don't nip in and snap him up before the window closes.
After all, a reunion with the club where he spent his formative years would certainly be an enticing proposition for the multifaceted attacker.
Only time will tell if Rayo will be able to keep their attacking sensation, but one thing’s for sure, and that’s that they’ll be absolutely desperate for him stay ahead of their impending relegation scrap.
Rayo will need all the help they can get to stay up, and it all starts with them keeping Jozabed.