First Division - Day 10

Valencia 2 - Rayo Vallecano 2

Valencia: Cañizares; Angulo, Djukic, Pellegrino, Carboni; Mendieta, Albelda, Zahovic (Diego Alonso 73'), Vicente; Juan Sánchez, Carew. 4-4-2.
Rayo: Lopetegui; Alcázar, De Quintana, Ballesteros, Mingo; Iván Iglesias (Helder 68'), Poschner, Michel, Mauro; Quevedo (Ferreira 80'); Bolic (Bolo 60'). 4-4-1-1.

Team changes: Valencia: Angulo, Pellegrino, Albelda, Zahovic, Vicente for Ayala, Björklund, Milla, Baraja, Kily González / Rayo: Poschner, Mauro, Bolic for Helder, Setvalls, Bolo.

0-1. 24. Bolic. Took bad Carboni back pass and beat Cañizares from 40 metres.
0-2. 58. Michel. Shot with outside of left foot from outside of area.
1-2. 65. Mendieta. Left footvolley after Sánchez headed back Carboni's cross.
2-2. 93. Diego Alonso. Shot from edge of area after Carew headed ball on.

An injury time goal from substitute Diego Alonso enabled Valencia to hang on to their undefeated home record, and more importantly their lead at the top. Rayo had surprised the European sub-champions with their efficient play, and they took a well deserved lead in the first half through Bolic, who seeing Cañizares off his line after winning the ball of Carboni, unleashed a speculative shot from just over the halfway line which flew over the stranded keeper and in to the net. Valencia were looking tired after their midweek outing in Europe, although Rayo had more excuses in that department having played a UEFA cup tie two days after their opponents. The home side were also missing Ayala and Kily González, both on international duty in South America, and also Baraja, suspended for one game after picking up his fifth yellow card last week.

The Madrid based team extended their lead early in the second half, with Michel getting his second in three days and his tenth of the season with a well struck goal. It looked as if Rayo were going to get their first ever win in the Mestalla stadium, but Valencia's captain Mendieta once again was in the right place at the right time to pull one back. Rayo back-pedalled and set out their stall around Lopetegui's goal mouth, with Valencia bombarding high balls into the penalty area looking for the giant figure of Carew. After Lopetegui had kept out shots from Mendieta and Sánchez, the tactic finally worked, the Norwegian knocking on the ball for Alonso to snatch a point.

To really rub it in, referee Rodríguez Santiago sent off Rayo's German midfielder Poschner right at the end for a second bookable offence. Poschi had only just returned from a one match suspension for this match, and after only being sent off once in his long career, he has now got his marching orders three times in the first part of this season, twice in the league and once in the UEFA cup. They must be ruing their luck, as a win here would have taken them up to third place in the league. Even so they stay in sixth spot, having once again proved to be one of the revelation teams of the league. Valencia stay ahead of Deportivo on goal average, and despite dropping two points, they have opened up a three point gap over the third placed team, Real Madrid. They call it the luck of the champions. Will this finally be their year?