Nine minutes… that’s how long it took Real Madrid put down Rayo Vallecano in today’s La Liga match. Sure the two sides played out their 90-plus minutes. But such was the domination of the European Champions against their tiny Madrid neighbours that the result was really never in doubt.
Carlo Ancelotti changed four players from the mid-week Champions League match at the Bernabeu against Liverpool, not that it truly mattered. His side still featured two World Cup winners and six nominees for this year’s Ballon D’Or.
Back to the ninth minute, then, and a lovely play that saw Cristiano Ronaldo feed the ball to Toni Kroos at the left of the box, who then slotted it to a galloping Gareth Bale in front of goal. One-nil Real.
Los Blancos almost doubled their score right away after a similar play; this time, Karim Benzema lanced the ball at James Rodríguez. The Colombian then quickly turned and passed it to Ronaldo, whose shot went wayward. The league’s top scorer missed but it was indicative of how Real are playing at the moment; their movement is so good, so fluid that they glide across the pitch, often in anticipation of passes that almost never miss their mark.
That’s not to say that Vallecano were pushovers. Striker Albert Bueno was on his game, sending a thunderbolt in the 21st minute from 20 yards out that a shaky Keylor Navas struggled to deflect. The men in red also took to attacking Real’s right flank where Nacho has been playing as a makeshift fullback. Los Franjirrojos were pesky in the box on set pieces, and a couple moments of Real disarray looked like they would lead to a goal. On the other end, Vallecano held their lines, and Cristian Álvarez played with awareness, even as the league leaders poured forward with pressure.
But after 40 minutes, that pressure got to the visitors as another cross made its way into the box. Real centre back Sergio Ramos took the volley on his thigh and deflected the ball into the net, doubling the lead. It was the defender’s 50th for Real Madrid, a stunning feat for a man whose job is to stop goals, not score them.
However, four minutes later, a bad throw by Navas into a group of Vallecano players caused James to panic with a back pass. Vallecano took advantage and Bueno made no mistake. It was 2-1 for Madrid but, after a half where the visitors passed and moved as well as their hosts, Vallecano had every reason to feel confident at the break.
That confidence quickly melted away in the second half. Vallecano seemed to wilt under the onslaught while the home side showed no signs of fatigue from a gruelling mid-week clash. Real’s third goal in the 55th minute was sublime as Kroos curled the ball around two defenders and into the corner of the net. Four minutes later, Benzema scored despite being glaringly offside. Howls of protest from the Vallecano bench fell on deaf ears, although it could be considered payback for other egregious non-calls by the referee, most notably a tackle from behind on James in the first half. Roberto Trashorras stopped the Colombian as he was about to break, but it generated neither a twitch nor gesture from the officials.
A late goal from Cristiano Ronaldo finished the evening with a 5-1 final score. Los Nuevos Galacticos have now won 13 straight matches, 10 of those after scoring three goals or more. The worrying part for their upcoming opponents is that after a post-Lisbon hangover, the champions appear to be picking up momentum. With a relatively easy schedule over the next six weeks, and progression to the knockout round of the Champions League guaranteed, Madrid will want to keep up their league form before making an almost embarrassingly easy journey to nearby Morocco for the FIFA Club World Cup in December.
Barcelona, Valencia and Atlético supporters might disagree at the moment. But none of those teams can boast of the firepower that Real possesses. Like Chelsea in England, and Bayern Munich in Germany, Real could be another mega-club that wraps up its league title with plenty of time to spare.