First Division - Day 1

Villarreal 1 - Rayo Vallecano 5

Villarreal: López Vallejo; Galván, Quique Álvarez (Escoda 73'), Berruet, Arruabarrena; Jorge López (Moisés 73'), Amor, Cagna; Víctor, Marioni, Calleja (Gaitán 60'). 4-3-3.
Rayo: Lopetegui; Alcázar, De Quintana, Ballesteros, Mingo; Quevedo, Helder, Poschner, Michel (Pablo Sanz 60'); Luis Cembranos (Mauro 55'); Bolo (Bartelt 80'). 4-4-1-1.

0-1. 24. Cembranos. Took pass from Bolo, lobbed over defender and volleyed.
0-2. 28. Quevedo. Headed past keeper from Poschner's free kick.
0-3. 44. Bolo (penalty). After defender brought down Michel in the box.
1-3. 48. Víctor. Picked up loose ball, turned and shot past Lopetegui.
1-4. 55. Cembranos. Ran past defence, dribbled keeper and scored.
1-5. Helder. Picked up ball in front of keeper and shot under his body.

If money paid out during the close season was anything to go by, this match should have been a home banker. Newly promoted Villarreal had splashed out over three billion Pesetas in new signings, including Valladolid's Spanish international centre forward Víctor, Independiente's striker Bruno Marioni, ex Barcelona and Spain midfielder Guillermo Amor and Boca Juniors star defender Aruabarrena, who joined his old club captain Diego Cagna, signed six months before. They also brought in Lleida's manager Víctor Muñoz (well known to Barcelona and Scottish football fans), who brought with him two of his star players Escoda and Quique Álvarez.

On the other hand Rayo Vallecano's thirteen new signings had cost only 450 million Pesetas between the lot of them. Rayo's team had been decimated after Atlético Madrid and Zaragoza had taken away their entire back four, and eight other players had left the club. Their replacements were either signings from lower divisions (seven in all) or players 'in the twilight of their career' such as Bilbao's Patxi Ferreira. They were joined by three international signings, Bosnian striker Bolic (the natural substitute for Turdó as the butt for rude jokes by Englishmen), Glaucio (their best player in pre-season) and Aston Villa and Roma cast-off Gustavo Bartelt.

On paper then, Rayo were expected to be amongst the strugglers this year, but a record 16-0 aggregate victory in the preliminary round of the UEFA cup, albeit against amateurs Constellació Andorra, made some people sit up and think. The early start to the season could in the end be an advantage as the players have had more time to get to know each other, although as with last season it could take it's toll at the end. Whatever the case, Rayo surprised everyone in this match, winning the game by four clear goals to move to the top of league table after the first day.

Rayo's American international goalkeeper Kasey Keller picked up a hand injury in the days before the game and was unavailable, so Lopetegui played in goal in front of a new defence. Other than that though the rest of the team was similar to the one that finished last season, with Luis Cembranos supporting Bolo up front. Luis appeared to have recovered his early form from last season which won him a place in Spain's national team, and he was the star of the game in the first hour, when Juande Ramos decided to rest him. He opened the scoring halfway through the first half with a brilliant solo goal, and added another early in the second half.

Earlier it had looked as if Villarreal would dominate the game after Marioni had shot wide and Víctor had a shot saved by Lopetegui. However after the first goal the visitors took over, and by half time they were three up, with Quevedo scoring on his league debut and Bolo converting a penalty just before half time. Víctor pulled one back just after the break, but then goals by Cembranos and Helder at the end left local fans stunned. The Rayo players later dedicated their victory to club captain Cota, who will be out for six months after picking up a serious injury in the second leg against Constellació.

Rayo's victory stands them in good stead for Thursday night's first round UEFA cup clash with Norway's Molde. They are in the competition for the first time ever thanks to their fair play record last season, having been drawn out of the hat against 12 other teams from the rest of Europe. Their performance in this match has highlighted the defects in Villarreal's defence, and Víctor Muñoz has got to work on that area if they are to be a serious force in the first division. Still, it is early days yet.