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The beginning of Rayo's glory days (19th December, 2017)

Spanish football is always criticized for being a two horse race. That is a blanket statement - it doesn't capture the competitiveness of the Segunda, the fiery relegation and European spot battles of La Liga, the shocking frequency at which clubs in the lower leagues disappear. But there is one, and only one, context in which I believe that statement - and it's not the one you expect.

The 2007-08 season of women's football was dominated by two teams - Rayo Vallecano and Levante. Before then, Levante had always come in the top 3 since 2000; they had won four league titles and six Copa de la Reina's. In contrast, Rayo Vallecano had only started existing since 2000 and had never been in the top 3, and had reached the semifinal stage in each of the previous three Copa de la Reina's.

It wasn't even close - Levante were flying in the league table, and Rayo were not far behind. But it wasn't just the fact that Rayo were posing a serious challege and running away with Levante from everyone else, it was how they were doing it. Natalia Pablos and Sonia Bermúdez plundered in the goals as Rayo swept aside teams with an attacking brilliance never seen before. They ended up scoring 82 goals in a 26 league season - Natalie ended up top scorer in the league with 24, with Sonia not far behind with 20.

At the end of the league season, Levante ended up with 71 points, and so did Rayo, but Levante won the league title. And while it was a deserved title win - Levante only conceded a paltry 10 goals - Rayo were bitter.

The Copa de la Reina takes place after the league season - the top eight teams in the 16-team league qualify for it - and it was clear that either Rayo or Levante would end up with the trophy in their hands. In fact, both Rayo and Levante won their semifinals with a combined score of 14 to nothing. Hardly a surprise, considering the league had finished with Athletic Bilbao in third place with just 53 points.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. For Rayo, it was served hot, on a sunny day - June 28th - at the Julián Ariza in Torrelodones, Madrid.

The Copa de la Reina final was attended by 1500 people - a large crowd given the times. And the match did not disappoint - Sonia Bermúdez scored in the 45th minute, and Natalia made it two in the 53rd with a goal from the edge of the area. But it was no easy match - as Rayo fans chanted their team, calling them champions, Montse scored for Levante in the 59th minute, as a corner kick led to a loose ball at the far post and Rayo goalkeeper Alicia nervously failed to catch the ball. And four minutes later Mari Paz equalized as Rayo's defense started to look exposed.

But it was an unsung hero that saved the day. Jade came on for Sonia, who had to be substituted due to physical problems, in the 72nd minute, and three minutes later she ran down the left side of the pitch and sent a perfect cross to the middle, where Natalia stung her head and gave Rayo the goal they needed to clinch their first ever title.

Rayo had been denied the double, but the golden age of Rayo Vallecano was just beginning...

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