Rayo Vallecano 1 Real Madrid 0: Benzema missed as Los Blancos humbled by La Liga struggler

Without the injured Karim Benzema to call on, Real Madrid succumbed to a surprise 1-0 LaLiga defeat at lowly Rayo Vallecano.

Rayo Vallecano has won a La Liga game against Real Madrid for the first time since 19th February 1997 (1-0), more than 22 years ago.    -  afp

Karim Benzema's absence was felt by Real Madrid as Zinedine Zidane's side slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat at La Liga struggler Rayo Vallecano.

Madrid's leading scorer Benzema - who has netted the club's last eight La Liga goals - may miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, and without its talisman to rely on, Los Blancos put in a tame display at Estadio de Vallecas.

VAR played a crucial role in Rayo's first victory over Madrid since 1997 - referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes changing his initial decision not to award the host a penalty for a foul by Jesus Vallejo.

Adrian Embarba duly slotted home from 12 yards and Rayo's lead was hardly threatened as Madrid succumbed to a defeat that all but ends its hopes of finishing second.

Gareth Bale failed to leave a mark in Sunday night's encounter between Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano.   -  reuters

 

Mariano Diaz, in for Benzema, saw an early chance blocked by Abdoulaye Ba, while Thibaut Courtois denied Jose Pozo an opener at the other end.

Javi Guerra looked set to prod home a wonderful Alex Moreno cross soon after, only for Vallejo to get there first.

However, after initially letting play to continue - Gareth Bale seeing a one-on-one effort saved by Alberto Garcia in the intervening period - the referee brought the play back and, after consulting with VAR, deemed that Vallejo had in fact dragged Guerra down, with Embarba making no mistake from the resultant spot-kick.

Embarba almost caught Courtois out with a cross-shot shortly after the restart, before Madrid's goalkeeper made a smart stop to deny Bebe.

Garcia reacted sharply to keep out a dipping Bale free-kick with 20 minutes remaining, but that was all Madrid could muster as Rayo held firm to secure a famous victory and boost its slim hopes of survival in the process.

What does it mean? Third place looking likely for Madrid 

With Atletico Madrid having beaten Real Valladolid on Saturday, Madrid - winless on the road under Zidane so far - is now nine points behind its neighbour with three games remaining, meaning that one more point will be enough to secure second place for Diego Simeone's side.

Rayo, meanwhile, is up to 19th, six points adrift of safety.

Courtois stakes his claim

Although on the losing side, Courtois can at least point to an impressive individual display as reason for Zidane to stand by him, with the Frenchman having preferred Keylor Navas since returning for a second stint as coach.

The former Chelsea goalkeeper made a string of quality stops on his first La Liga start since Santiago Solari's last match in charge on March 10, and without him the scoreline would have been even more humiliating for Madrid.

Vallejo falls foul of VAR

Making just a third La Liga start for Madrid, Vallejo looked to have done well when he beat Guerra to Moreno's delivery, but his reckless pull on the 37-year-old's shirt was spotted by the video review system.

Key Opta Facts:

- Rayo Vallecano has won a La Liga game against Real Madrid for the first time since 19th February 1997 (1-0), more than 22 years ago. 
- Real Madrid has failed to score in consecutive games in all competitions for the first time with Zinedine Zidane as head coach. 
- Paco Jemez has registered his first win against Real Madrid as La Liga manager (10 games). 
- Thibaut Courtois has faced more penalties without a penalty save than any other La Liga goalkeeper this season in all competitions (eight, seven goals conceded, one missed).

What's next?

Madrid hosts Villarreal on Sunday, while Rayo is in action against fellow La Liga struggler Levante a day earlier.

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