First Division - Day 18

Numancia 0 - Rayo Vallecano 2

Numancia: Alvaro Nuñez; Jaume (David Pirri 60'), Muñiz, Gustavo, Clavero; Marini, José Manuel, Caco Morán, Iñaki; Barbu (Chispa Delgado 75'), Ojeda (Rosu 62'). 4-4-2.
Rayo: Keller; Alcázar, Ballesteros, De Quintana, Mingo; Helder, Poschner (Mauro 82'), Quevedo, Setvalls; Bolic (Luis Cembranos 53'), Bolo (Glaucio 90'). 4-4-2.

Team changes: Numancia: Clavero, Marini, Barbu for Octavio, Nagore, Pacheta / Rayo: Setvalls for Michel.

0-1. 04. Poschner. Picked up loose ball in area and drove past keeper.
0-2. 81. Luis Cembranos. Took headed pass from Bolo and chipped over Nuñez.

Rayo Vallecano consolidate their position in sixth place with their one hundredth victory in the first division. Before this game they had gone four matches without a win, having passed through the most difficult part of the league calendar against Depor, Barça, Madrid and Mallorca with three draws and a loss at the Bernabeu. Numancia are suffering by being at the end of that run for most clubs, and when they reach the Soria side, teams are usually desperate for a victory. That was the case for Rayo, who came in to the game fresh from their come-back against city rivals Atlético Madrid in the third round of the cup. Juande Ramos decided not to include the recently recovered Luis Cembranos in his starting line up despite losing Michel to an injury last week, and the young midfielder took his place on the bench, with Setvalls coming in on the left of midfield. In the opposite dressing room, García Remón was missing the suspended Nagore, and with Octavio not recovering from a knock picked up in training, Marini and Clavero came in to the side. The manager also drafted in Barbu up front, playing alongside Ojeda for the first time this season.

Rayo controlled the game right from the outset, taking the lead in the fourth minute when Poschner pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the area to drive a shot past Nuñez, his first of the season. Quevedo, Bolo and Bolic kept up the onslaught, with Numancia not getting a chance at goal until Keller saved from a long shot from Ojeda ten minutes before half time. Early in the second half Cembranos came on for Bolic for the visitors, and García Remón made two changes in the home side, bringing on midfielder Pirri for Jaume and trying out his two Rumanians together up front, with Rosu entering for the first time under the new manager. For a while it worked, with Keller forced to save from Barbu and then from Iñaki and Rosu himself, but with ten minutes to go Rayo extended their lead. Keller booted a long clearance upfield, and Bolo headed down for Luis Cembranos to round Muñiz and chip a delightful shot over the advancing Nuñez.

The three points were on their way to Madrid, keeping Rayo in line for a place in Europe again next year. Numancia stay in the bottom three, and having lost four games at home are struggling to keep their heads above water. They need a reliable striker, and with Rubén Navarro likely to be out a couple more weeks at least the club is sounding out the market. However their budget does not allow them to splash out too much, and right now Deportivo's Iván Pérez or Real Madrid's Tote look the best bets. There is still half a season to go, but the warning bells are already ringing, and bookmakers may soon call off all bets on them. Even their usually peaceful fans are getting tired, and stones were thrown at the Rayo coach as it was leaving the ground, something never dreamed of last season. Let's hope things change, if only for the sake of visiting coach drivers.