Valencia 1-0 Rayo Vallecano: Jonas goal enough as Valencia scrape the win
A single goal from Jonas in the first-half was enough to claim three points, as Rayo layed siege upon their goal in the second-half.
Whilst Rayo Vallecano seemed to have got off to a flying start when Larrivey struck the post in just the second minute, referee Borbalán called back the play, as the Argentine striker had caught Valencia’s Mathieu with his arm on his way to goal.
Rayo were keen to keep hold of the ball in the following early stages, with the lion’s share of possession, but they weren’t making any headway towards goal. Valencia meanwhile, were looking far more purposeful heading towards the Rayo Area.
Pabón made a good run down the left flank in the 13th minute, cut inside well and fired powerfully at goal, but straight at the Rayo keeper. Then as the game headed towards the 20th minute mark, Rubén in the Rayo goal had to stay alert, first with a good save to deny Fede, then a matter of seconds later, reaching well to claim a cross from Pabón, after he’d opened space for himself again on the left.
A rare foray towards goal for Rayo in the 21st minute, culminated in a good cross from Lass, but neither Larrivey or Adrián responded fast enough to make the most of a good opening for the visitors.
Valencia were unhappy in the 27th minute, when a good ball through the Rayo defence from Banega headed towards Jonas, but he took a tumble just inside the area. The referee wasn’t interested and waved away the penalty claims.
On the half-hour mark, Rayo saw a quick cross from Trashorras and a header from Larrivey saved well by Alves in the Valencia goal and the home fans seemed to be getting impatient.
Valencia seemed to sense the expectation and pressure from the stands though and pushed forward more purposefully. In the 35th minute, Jonas received a great pass from Mathieu beyond the Rayo defence and shot for goal, but Saúl arrived just in time to clear off the line.
The pressure continued from the home side and in the 37th minute, they took the lead. Saúl turned from saint to sinner with a horrible mistake, last man at the back and losing the ball to Jonas. The Valencia forward took full advantage and slotted the ball across the face of Rubén, into the back of the net.
Rayo looked for an immediate reaction and won a corner. Trashorras swung it in, but Alves punched clear, before going down in a heap as players jostled to reach the ball, having taken a knock from Adrián.
Whilst Valencia couldn’t get their final touch together in the ultimate moments of the half, neither were Rayo, until Larrivey headed way off target in stoppage time. In truth, although Valencia had the lead and had seen more shots on target from Rayo, up until the goal, neither side had genuinely threatened the either goalkeeper.
Rayo came out with the early attacking impetus in the second half. First Seba Fernández stung the palms of Alves, with a shot that was powerful, but straight at the Valencia keeper. Then Trashorras floated a cross, but again, straight into the hands of Alves.
Still the visitors pushed though, looking stronger in the opening exchanges following the interval. A good cross from Arbilla in the 52nd minute was powerfully met by the head of Adrián near the penalty spot, but off target.
The positive second-half start from Rayo seemed to act as a kick up the backside for Valencia and they looked to get themselves forward better. First Pabón threatened and drilled in a cross from the left, but nobody was racing fast enough to get on the end of it to make the connection and the ball whizzed across the face of goal. Then in the 56th minute, Canales fired in a cross from deep, but Pereira couldn’t reach it on the far side.
On the hour, the first change of the game came as a struggling Seba Fernández was switched for Perea by Rayo manager Jémez. Immediately following that, the visitors were on the attack. Perea was hovering with intent a moment later in front of goal, but following a dangerous cross from Lass, Valencia keeper Alves managed to get fists to it, just ahead of the Rayo substitute.
Valencia almost pressed the self-destruct button in the 66th minute, when Victor Ruíz made an erroneous back-pass, but fortunately, Alves reacted well to save his team-mate’s blushes. Djukic then made his first change of the game, bringing on Feghouli for Fede.
The home side weren’t really posing any threat on their opponent’s goal and Rayo were still very much in the game, with just the one-goal deficit. Trashorras tried to bring them back on level terms in the 69th minute, but though he connected well with the volley, the ball sailed over the Valencia crossbar.
As the game headed into the final twenty minutes, Zé Castro fired in a dangerous cross and Adrián rose to head at goal, but with Alves rooted to the spot, the ball sailed harmlessly wide. Still Rayo pressured for the goal that would bring them level and in the 72nd minute, Lass came close.
Jémez made his second change of the game, bringing Bueno on for Jémez, quickly followed by a Djukic’s second change, with Míchel replacing Banega in the 77th minute.
Valencia were forced to make their final substitution of the game in the 81st minute, after Pereira could continue no longer and signalled to the bench and needed help off the pitch. His replacement was Barragán.
Still the visitors were pushing for goal though and Valencia were having plenty of defending to do, trying to hold out against a much more buoyant Rayo.
With Valencia penned back in their own half, Rayo manager Jémez decided it was time for one last throw of the attacking dice, bringing on Mexican striker Nery Castillo for his début, for defender Saúl.
Rayo were throwing everything forward desperately looking for the elusive equaliser and in the 87th minute, Perea turned on the shoulder of the Valencia defence, found himself in a fabulous position to shoot, but fluffed his chance completely.
It was back’s to the wall for Valencia, who had everyone back defending as the game headed into injury time. Nery Castillo went on a fabulous run for Rayo, beating three Valencia players but couldn’t beat a fourth, as Víctor Ruíz halted the progress to goal of the Mexican.
Even Rayo keeper Rubén joined in the attacks with the game deep into injury time and as Valencia recovered, Feghouli somehow managed to miss, with the goal open ahead of him.
As the final whistle blew, Valencia had managed to hold firm at the back for the three points, whilst Rayo Vallecano will feel desperately unlucky, after a great second-half display that deserved so much more than them leaving the Mestalla, empty handed.
Valencia 1-0 Rayo Vallecano
Referee: Fernández Borbalán
Valencia XI: Alves; Pereira (81′), V.Ruíz, Mathieu, Bernat; Fuego, Banega (77′); Fede (67′), Canales, Pabón.
Goals: Jonas (37′)
Subs: Feghouli (67′), Míchel (77′), Barragán (81′)
Yellow Cards: V.Ruíz (13′), Pereira (30′), Zé Castro (79′)
Rayo Vallecano XI: Rubén; Arbilla, Saúl, Zé Castro, Mojica; Baena (75′), Trashorras; Adrián, Lass, Seba Fernández (60′); Larrivey.
Subs: Perea (60′), Bueno (75′), Castillo (86′)
Yellow Cards: Baena (9′), Arbilla (41′), Adrián (61′), Saúl (76′)