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The Rayo Report: Rayo Vallecano 0-3 Tenerife - Experiments, errors and the experienced (7th September, 2017)

Rayo Vallecano vs Tenerife. Starting Lineups

Míchel and José Luis Martí both made huge changes to their squads. And who can blame them? This is a midweek game, in between two jornadas, in the Copa del Rey - a competition that Segunda teams see as a distraction from a grueling 42 game season.

The midfield battle - fluidity vs rigidity

Míchel experimented with the "midfielder on the wing" for the second time in his Rayo tenure - coincidentally, the first time was against Tenerife too in a 1-1 draw (8th April, 2017). Then it was Fran, yesterday it was Unai López.

However, it is important to note that the positions were not fixed at all this game, and the midfielders, including Chori, kept dropping deep and/or moving forward. Theoretically, it should have meant that players would replace each other - but what it actually meant was that when Fran rotated with any player further forward, Tenerife were able to pounce easily in the central gaps that only a player with Fran's speed could cover.

And the third goal in the 20th minute was exactly that. Unai had the ball with him deep, he let his concentration slip - he literally did slip - and two passes later Brian Martín was in Rayo's half with even the defense lagging behind. As for Francisco Cerro, widely tipped to be a quick midfielder adept at both passing and defensive work, his game was summed up by a 33rd minute foul on Paco Montañés, where Cerro, slow to react, clumsily took Paco out from behind after Rayo lost the ball.

The fluidity of Rayo's midfield was completely at odds with Tenerife's well oiled machine of Vitolo and Aitor Sanz. Vitolo, who turns 34 day after tomorrow and is just 5'6", is quick, aggressive and not afraid to put in a tackle - or the leg work. And while Aitor Sanz's passing is what keeps the team ticking, Vitolo isn't too shabby either. The double pivot worked extremely well - often pressing the player who had the ball together (especially when that player was Fran or Chori), and not a single noteworthy attack came from Tenerife's central area.

Only Fran gave them any genuine problems, and was Rayo's most fouled player by far. Juan Carlos' booking summed it up - Fran kept being shoved and pulled back, and he kept fighting to keep the ball and not go down, until the laws of gravity and balance took over. It was truly a powerful moment of a young player trying to set an example for the rest of the team - and when he quickly stood up again his eyes said it all.

Tenerife's attack

Simply put, Antonio Amaya, Rayo's captain-for-today, had a game that had elements of both bad luck and poor risk-taking. The first goal was the former - Amaya tried clearing a wayward long ball from Lucas Aveldaño, and the failed clearance fell perfectly for Juan Carlos. But the second was definitely the latter - Amaya ran towards a ball to intercept it. Despite his success in getting to the ball, simply kicking the ball to the opposition eventually left Emiliano Velázquez defending a 2 v 1 situation. His foul on Vitolo in the 60th minute, which earned him a yellow card, was so poorly timed so as to be injury-causing.

Amaya's game, combined with Sergio Akieme covering the entire left flank, meant that Juan Carlos, Malbašić, and Brian all were up against Velázquez. It was also interesting to contrast that with the fact that Ernesto almost always overlapped on the right flank, simply because Paco Montañés stayed deeper, helping out in midfield defensively.

Rayo in the second half


Rayo Vallecano vs Tenerife. After substitutions.

Rayo's attack was much more interesting, especially in the second half. Chori became a number nine, and Rayo now had a proper left winger in Diego Aguirre. Moreover, the midfield of Fran, Unai and Jonathan Montiel still rotated, but it was much less frequently and even then this was much more of a traditional 4-2-3-1 setup with Montiel really showing his dribbling abilities.

But Rayo barely created any more chances - Tenerife's defense, especially Alberto Jiménez, did a professional job of seeing Rayo out, and José Luis Martí even had the luxury of subbing off all three players behind the striker.

Conclusion

This was a poor game from Rayo, with a vastly different system that Rayo usually never use with players that usually don't play. The difference between Rayo and Tenerife was a combination of poor individual performances and lack of cohesiveness that comes with experience.

Míchel will definitely be thinking about the midfield system, which brought the best out of most players going forward but the worst of all the players defensively. Unai was at his best when drifting into the space just in front of the defense. Chori was both collecting the ball from deep and making late runs into the box - but also picked up a yellow. It even brought out the best of Lass - given sole responsibility to create chances, he gave left-back Nahuel a torrid time. In fact, Lass had a genuine penalty claim in the dying seconds of the first half when Lucas Aveldaño shoved him in the box.

Experienced players won this game for Tenerife. 2nd captain Vitolo and 3rd captain Sanz were influential in protecting the defense. 4th captain Raúl Cámara at right-back kept Akieme largely quiet too. More importantly, however, the team worked together extremely well, defending cohesively and attacking effectively.

A tactically astute performance, from a tactically astute team led by a coach who was a tactically astute central midfielder.

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