Rayo Vallecano 1 – 1 Elche CF ….. By Kevin Rendall
The first point Elche have mustered this year was certainly won the hard way as they gamely refused to allow Rayo Vallecano to make it three defeats in-a-row. Elche deservedly took the lead before being pegged back by a home side who took full advantage of what looked like a poor refereeing decision.
Elche made three changes from the side that lost at Oviedo last weekend. Out went Luis- Pérez, Pelayo and Liberto and into the side came back from suspension Rober Correa, striker Guillermo and debutante Fabián. Elche started well, but true to recent form weren’t able to capitalise on their possession or find a decent final ball. For their part, Rayo defended just like, well, Elche have been in recent weeks, actually.
A routine catch from an Adri Embarba header was the hardest thing Ilicitano goalkeeper Juan Carlos had to do during a one-sided first half. At the other end, his counterpart Gazzaniga survived until seven minutes before half-time, at which point his defence let him down badly. Edu Albacar humped a speculative free-kick into the Rayo penalty area which Nino who, unable to make a decent contact, got on the end of. Two white-shirted defenders failed dismally to avert the danger whereupon Guillermo steered the ball into an empty net.
The goal wasn’t a classic, it didn’t need to be, these are trying times for Elche and every goal, however they come, is gratefully received. Half-time 0-1
Rayo coach Rubén Baraja, who spent eleven months managing Elche before losing confidence in the project and declining the offer of a new contract, will have been keen to get a result against his former side. That much was evident as Rayo began the second-half a different proposition to that which ended the first. They needed a huge stroke of luck, though, to get themselves back in the game. Referee Isidro Díaz de Mera duly obliged by pointing to the spot following an innocuous looking tussle between Sergio Pelegrin and Rayo striker Manucho.
Venezuelan centre-forward Miku, probably the pick of an ordinary looking Rayo Vallecano bunch on the day, stepped up with a brilliantly taken penalty to send Juan Carlos the wrong way. It’s telling that nobody in an Elche shirt was booked for the original misdemeanour despite vigorous protests. Edu Albacar, who would later hobble off with a bad knee, was yellow carded before Miku equalised, but not for any reason connected to the foul.
Galvanised by the goal, Rayo Vallecano set about Elche who were perhaps fortunate to survive. Miku, himself, was becoming a real thorn in the Elche side and looked likely to add to his team’s total. Unfortunately for the South American, just as things were getting interesting, he picked up a second yellow card for a poor challenge on Albert Dorca and had to go. With his dismissal the sting went out of the Rayo Vallecano effort and Elche regrouped in search of a winner.
Five minutes of added-on time weren’t sufficient for either side to take advantage and the match petered out into a tame draw. By virtue of the fact they didn’t lose, Elche will have probably been the happier of the two sides, particularly given the pressure they were put under at times during the second-half. Next week they return to the Martínez Valero with a tough looking Friday night fixture against promotion chasing Girona FC, the divison’s highest scorers.