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The Rayo Report: Rayo Vallecano 2-2 Numancia - 2 mindsets, 2 poor Athletic players. And Diamanka (27st August, 2017)

Rayo Vallecano vs Numancia. Starting Lineups.

Míchel went with the same lineup that won against Real Oviedo 3-2. Jagoba Arrasate went with two changes from the squad that won 1-0 against Huesca - both in defense. Unai Medina, an attacking right back, was replaced by the more defensive minded Markel Etxeberria, on loan from Athletic Bilbao. And in the left center-back spot 6'4" Carlos Gutiérrez was replaced by 6'1" Alberto Escassi.

Míchel, surprisingly, had Santi play even further up the pitch and join Trejo almost as a second striker, which meant that Rayo's midfield was even more wide open. In contrast, Arrasate's game plan for Numancia was very tailored to this game - ditching his usual 4-2-3-1 for a 4-4-2, with both Manu and Pere Milla pressing the center-backs heavily.

This was a game of four parts - the first being from minutes 1 to 17, the second from minutes 18 to 45, the third from 46 to 80 and the fourth from 81 to 90. Numancia didn't take their chances in the first part, Rayo did in the second, Numancia did in the third and Rayo didn't in the fourth.

Numancia's attack vs Rayo's defense

Numancia weren't particularly great in attack, but you only need one defender to screw up to succeed. This time, Dorado was simply horrible. His distribution was awful, his defensive concentration so poor that only Amaya's rock solid performance kept Rayo in the game. Pere Milla, despite not being the quickest of strikers, kept Dorado guessing.

One of the reasons Amaya may have done so well was that Marc Mateu didn't run in the channel between him and Ernesto Galán. Marc didn't even try to take Ernesto on. Instead, he hugged the touchline and kept passing the ball backwards or centrally. It gave Numancia a passing option on the wing, but also meant that Galán was able to make runs forward.

Valcarce on the right made many runs on the right, and while Álex Moreno did much better defensively compared to the previous game Valcarce still found a way through quite often - his crosses into the box were extremely dangerous.

Manu del Moral, a striker who can equally play on the wing, kept running and getting behind Amaya, but Amaya kept him offside extremely well this game - Manu even scored a goal (which would have been Numancia's third) that was ruled out.

The midfield battle

Simply put - Diamanka was everywhere - Unai had a torrid time playing against him, and had a poor game overall. Iñigo Pérez's distribution was excellent, and linked up well on the counterattack with Manu del Moral and Milla.

The number of times Diamanka was able to dispossess players and create chances was staggering. In the 16th minute, he dispossessed Galán on the edge of the box, and his shot was was saved by Alberto. In the 39th minute, Diamanka pressed, and dispossessed Unai, played the ball to Milla, who in turn played Valcarce on the right but his shot was too high. In the 62nd minute he pressed and dispossessed Unai again, played the ball to Milla again, and made a run forward, and all Milla had to do was play the ball back to Diamanka on the right and it was a simple goal - 2-2.

And it wasn't like Diamanka only pressed high - he ran back just as much as well, preventing a certain goal by Javi Guerra in the 83rd minute.

In contrast, Unai got his customary yellow card in the 13th minute - which summed up his night really.

Rayo's attack

This is where Numancia struggled. Markel Etxeberria had a torrid night - Diego Aguirre skinned him for pace and had no problems with taking him on 1-v-1. It was a similar case with Embarba and 2nd captain Adrián Ripa, who to be fair fared slightly better.

This left Trejo and Santi up against Dani Calvo, who was trying to sweep up the mess Diego Aguirre was creating, and Escassi - a midfielder playing in defense. Escassi had a night to forget, giving away a penalty with a cynical challenge on Santi and generally much better on the ball than off it.

It was interesting to see that Trejo usually made runs and Santi didn't when on the counter attack, but when Rayo were patiently building up it was Santi making the runs, with Trejo standing back. And Rayo's two goals exemplified this - in the 18th minute, Diego Aguirre skinned Markel, a low-driven cross and an Embarba flick later, Trejo was up against Escassi and there was only one winner. Santi had stayed back.

In contrast, two minutes later it was Santi who made a run into the box and Escassi gave away a penalty for kicking him, which Trejo converted.

Second half tactics

With Numancia struggling, Arrasate made a half time change that was subtle but hugely successful - switching Manu del Moral and Milla. It meant that Manu was up against Dorado, and its results were instantly felt - Numancia kept creating opportunities from then on.

The first was when, after a Valcarce cross from the right was cleared out onto the left wing, Mateu held the ball up and passed it inside for Pere Milla, who only needed one touch to score (48'). Then, just two minutes later, Numancia were on the counter attack and Milla put Manu del Moral through one-on-one, whose chip was woefully executed and easily saved.

In the 60th minute, after a corner, Valcarce headed a Mateu cross over the bar from inside the box, and it was clear that Numancia were going to score again - and they did two minutes later.

Subsitutions, and the liberation


Rayo Vallecano vs Numancia. After substitutions. (81st minute)

In the 68th minute, Míchel made a double substitution. Lass came on for Aguirre, adding more pace to the right wing. Moreover, Santi and Trejo dropped deeper into midfield and Guerra came on for Unai. This meant that Trejo had space to work with the ball, and it caused Iñigo Pérez problems - he cramped up and was subbed off by Larrea in the 80th minute.

It was a substitution made by Arrasate in the 74th minute that initially caught me by surprise. Valcarce, who terrorized Rayo, was subbed off for Nacho, a 24-year-old who was playing in the Tercera two years ago. But it was highly necessary - his pace and defensive work kept both Embarba and Moreno at bay, meaning most of Rayo's attacks subsequently came from the right.

In the 81st minute, Santi came off for Fran, and almost as if a rusted machine started working at 100%, Rayo's players started pressing Numancia crazily high up the pitch. Initially hesitant to play so high up, Rayo played some of their best football, and really should have taken their chances.

Just two minutes later, Lass ran with the ball on the right and crossed it in for Javi Guerra, whose shot was going in if not for Diamanka's block. Three minutes later Javi Guerra returned the favor and Lass had a shot at goal too. Embarba had a shot on goal in the dying embers of the game too. And Fran was everywhere, intercepting passes, creating chances and keeping Numancia at bay.

It's such a shame that he didn't come on earlier.

Conclusion

Too early to tell, but this Numancia side has a midfield and attack that any Segunda side should be scared of. Diamanka absolutely ran the show, and Manu del Moral and Milla were excellent. It's crazy to think that they didn't even play Unai Medina at right back, someone who gave Rayo nightmares last season. Speaking of right-backs, it's concerning that Rayo only have one - Ernesto Galán was once again excellent and kept Marc at bay whenever he did try to take Ernesto on.

And while Emiliano Velázquez should hopefully sort out the issues in central defense, Rayo really need to sort out their midfield - it is increasingly clear that someone needs to do the defensive work and it's hard to see why Fran isn't playing.

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