First Division - Day 23

Rayo Vallecano 0 - Valencia 4

Rayo: Etxeberría; Mario, Corino, Onopko, Graff (Dorado 18'); Pablo Sanz (Julio Alvarez 35'), Iriney; Peragón, Azkoitia (Luis Cembranos 55'), Michel; Bolic. 4-2-3-1.
Valencia: Cañizares; Reveillère (Dorothée 62'), Ayala, Marchena, Carboni; Baraja (Pellegrino 74'), De los Santos; Angulo, Mista, Kily González (Fabio Aurelio 83'); Juan Sánchez. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Rayo: Corino, Pablo Sanz, Iriney, Azkoitia, Michel, Bolic for De Quintana, Quevedo, Mora, Julio Alvarez, Luis Cembranos, Bolo / Valencia: Ayala, De los Santos, Angulo, Kily González for Djukic, Pellegrino, Rufete, Vicente.

0-1. 11. Angulo. Ran on to long pass out of defence to shoot low past keeper.
0-2. 34. Onopko (own goal). Turned Juan Sánchez cross past his own keeper.
0-3. 44. Baraja. Bent free kick over defensive wall from edge of area.
0-4. 59. Mista. Touched ball into empty net after Sánchez laid ball back.

Valencia rounded off a great weekend for Spain's Champions League clubs, who between them scored seventeen goals in all. Rafa Benítez's side beat his namesake Gustavo Benítez's Rayo Vallecano 0-4 in the last match on Sunday night to hold on to third place, level on points with Real Madrid. With one eye on next week's European match with Roma, the manager rested some of his key players, with Pellegrino, Albelda and his front four, Rufete, Aimar, Vicente and Carew, all missing from the starting line up. New signing Iriney made his debut for the locals.

The Valencia reserves were more than a match for the Madrid based side though, Angulo starting things off in the eleventh minute, running on to Baraja's long ball to beat Etxeberría. Rayo were unfortunate with injuries, both Graff and Pablo Sanz having to be replaced in the first half, and the bad luck continued when Onopko stuck out a foot to block Juan Sánchez's cross and only succeeded in deflecting the ball in to his own net. And then a minute before the break Baraja made it three with a curling free kick over the top of the wall and out of the reach of the Rayo keeper.

Mista went very close to adding a fourth on two occasions either side of half time, and finally did beat Etxeberría, steering a cross from Juan Sánchez into the net. The keeper did tip a Kily González shot over the bar and then saved from Sánchez to prevent the deficit from getting any bigger, and Bolic almost got one back near the end when he headed Julio Alvarez's cross just wide. But it was all too easy for Valencia, and they are now only two points away from leaders Real Sociedad, a strong contender now for their second league title in a row. Rayo slip further into trouble, and they are now five points away from safety and sinking fast. They have got out of worse messes in the past, but time is running out.