Real Madrid

Rayo Vallecano 0-1 Real Madrid: Player ratings as Los Blancos tighten their grip on La Liga title

Max Parsons
Real Madrid are a step closer to the title
Real Madrid are a step closer to the title / GABRIEL BOUYS/GettyImages

Real Madrid relied on Karim Benzema's late strike to secure a 1-0 victory over local rivals Rayo Vallecano on Saturday evening, as they move a step closer to the La Liga title.

Carlo Ancelotti's side have taken advantage of the fact that closest challengers Sevilla are in action in their own local derby tomorrow, hosting third-placed Real Betis in a gargantuan encounter, and now boast an at least momentary nine-point cushion atop of Spain's top flight.

An astonishing footnote to this match was that, heading into the game, Real Madrid hadn't managed to find the back of the net in the opening 45 minutes for seven consecutive fixtures in all competitions.

Despite that unenviable statistic, though, Los Blancos started very much on the front foot and should have broken the deadlock within the opening five minutes, only for Marco Asensio to squander two brilliant opportunities. Luca Zidane (the son of Real Madrid legend Zinedine) did enough to thwart the Spaniard on both occasions, as he was put through on goal by Luka Modric and Benzema early on.

Real's early dominance rapidly faded as time progressed, with Rayo seeing some decent phases of play and a couple of notable headed chances disappointingly passed up by Sergi Guardiola, although the visitors remained the likeliest to notch an opening goal.

Asensio continued to threaten, seeing a good curling effort fantastically saved by Zidane at full stretch, Benzema also went close with a deflected effort that sailed just past the post before having a close-range header brilliantly stopped by Zidane, and Casemiro saw a goal chalked off by a VAR review for offside.

Real Madrid, however, would have to wait to break the deadlock beyond an absorbing opening period - marking the eighth consecutive match that Ancelotti's side have failed to score a first-half goal.

The task of putting the ball in the back of the net wouldn't get any easier after the interval for the visiting side but, after Thibaut Courtois had produced a stunning reflex stop to deny Mario Suarez a headed goal from close range, Real Madrid finally found the breakthrough with seven minutes remaining.

It was born from the brilliantly instinctive and untouchable partnership between Benzema and Vinicius Junior. The two linked up blisteringly to cut apart Rayo in their own penalty area, with the Frenchman eventually tapping in his colleague's cut-back.

A laboured second half would eventually come to a close with Ancelotti's men seeing out the minutes to a big win in their pursuit of a 35th La Liga title.

Real Madrid player ratings

1. Goalkeeper & defenders

Dani Carvajal
Dani Carvajal had a good game / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Thibaut Courtois (GK) - 8/10 - Characteristically alert to what came his way, notably pulling out yet another worldie to keep out Suarez's header after the break.

Dani Carvajal (RB) - 8/10 - Excellently resolute on the back foot, making six ball recoveries, while also providing good support upfield, managing three key passes throughout.

Eder Militao (CB) - 6/10 - Caught out of position a few times but was always quick to use his pace to cover unoccupied space and cut out the danger.

Nacho Fernandez (CB) - 6/10 - Composed and assured when faced with danger as well as when playing out from the back.

Ferland Mendy (LB) - 6/10 - Remained defensively alert to make a few important interventions and clearances, although disappointed going forward.

2. Midfielders

Luka Modric
Luka Modric was a hive of creativity / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Casemiro (DM) - 7/10 - A standard performance from the immovable Brazilian. Read play impeccably to provide a screen to the back four, while also proving an imposition in the final third. Inevitably booked, though, and removed soon after.

Luka Modric (CM) - 8/10 - Central to most of the visitors' positivity, taking up the mantle of creative pivot at the heart of the side.

Toni Kroos (CM) 5/10 -- Typically sharp and accurate with his ball distribution but was generally kept fairly quiet among the game's franticness.

3. Forwards

Marco Asensio (RW) - 6/10 - Heavily involved from the outset, showing great movement, skill and creativity throughout. Lacked that killer touch where it mattered most, however.

Karim Benzema (ST) - 7/10 -
A few nice, classy moments but was underwhelmingly quiet for the large majority of proceedings. Even so, just as world class players do, he provided the crucial contribution.

Vinicius Junior (LW) - 8/10 -
A little loose at times, but dangerous nonetheless; electric with the ball at his feet while also managing three key passes - notably securing a brilliant assist for Benzema.

4. Substitutes

Federico Valverde (CM) - 7/10 - Introduced a bit of dynamism and drive from deep, which gave Real a more penetrative approach.

Rodrygo (RW) - 7/10 - Looked sharp immediately after coming on and played his part in the goal.

Eduardo Camavinga (CM) - 7/10 - Helped see the game out after his late introduction.

Dani Ceballos (CM) - 5/10 - Booked late on.