First Division - Day 37

Alavés 0 - Rayo Vallecano 1

Alavés: Herrera; Geli, Coloccini, Téllez, Llorens; Witschge, Turiel (Rubén Navarro 60'); Astudillo, Magno, Ibon Begoña (Jordi Cruyff 60'); Iván Alonso. 4-2-3-1.
Rayo: Imanol Etxeberria; Alcázar, Corino, Quevedo, Graff; Pablo Sanz, Vivar Dorado (Helder 46'); Ferrón, Peragón, Azkoitia; Bolo (Glaucio 90'). 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Alavés: Coloccini, Witschge, Magno for Karmona, Pablo, Jordi Cruyff / Rayo: Graff, Ferrón, Azkoitia, Bolo for De Quintana, Hernández, Michel, Bolic.

0-1. 47. Corino. Direct free kick into top corner from outside of area.

A gutsy performance by Rayo Vallecano at Alavés made sure that the Madrid based side stay in the top flight for another season. Gregorio Manzano's side were almost certain of the 'permanencia' after three straight wins had taken them on to 43 points. However with most managers setting the safety threshold at 44 they still were still a point away, and with Michel out for six months after a serious ligment injury last week and De Quintana, Hernández and Bolic all suspended it was not going to be easy. It looked even more difficult after the first minute though when Quevedo, playing as makeshift central defender, was shown a direct red card for brining down striker Iván Alonso from behind as he advanced unmarked on goal. Referee Pino Zamorano had no doubts in awarded a penalty, but for once the usually reliable Llorens sent his kick against the bar and Rayo were let off the hook.

Alavés needed a win though to consolidate their seventh spot, and they kept up the pressure against the ten men. It seemed only a matter of time as Astudillo hit the post, Magno wasted an easy chance and Iván Alonso sent a header crashing against the bar. Rayo did give a warning to their opponents though when ex Alavés midfielder Azkoitia hit the post at the other end, and two minutes after the restart the visitors went in front Corino firing a long free kick into the top corner of Herrera's net for his thirs goal in consecutive games. Inspired by Richard Witschge, who together with Coloccini was probably playing his last game at the Mendizorroza stadium, the home side didn't give up, and Pino Zamorano gave them a second penalty when Ferrón brought down Astudillo.

Once again though Llorens was out of luck, Etxeberria guessing right and saving the kick, and Mané made a double change, bringing on Jordi Cruyff and Rubén Navarro as Rayo circled the wagons around their own penalty area. In the dying minutes though Magno missed another good chance, and the home fans whistled their players off the field. Incredibly though nobody could take advantage of their slip, and they stay a point ahead of three teams in the third UEFA cup spot. They need to win at Osasuna next week to be sure of a place in Europe, but their Basque neighbours have nothing to play for (other than a win bonus) and may not be trying too hard. Despite the humiliation tonight Mané could well have worked another miracle, and fans will surely foregive him if he can pull it off. Find out next Saturday.