Full-time: Rayo Vallecano 0-2 Real Madrid
It’s all over and Real Madrid remain four points behind Barcelona thanks to goals in the second half from Cristiano Ronaldo and James Rodriguez. We’ll leave the final word to Eliot Crowe, who has predicted what I’m going to be like tomorrow morning. “Apropos of your earlier video clip at 79 mins,” he says.
90 min+1: Isco’s corner comes to nothing. Nacho Fernandez has also replaced James.
90 min+1: Javier Hernandez replaces Gareth Bale.
89 min: Rayo aren’t going to score tonight. It’s not their night. Varane’s challenge stops Miku from scoring, but it runs to Aquino, who volleys wide from 12 yards.
87 min: Rayo are still plugging away. Nacho crosses from the left and Manucho sends a downward header towards the bottom corner, but Casillas dives to his right and pushes the ball away.
86 min: The real story tonight has been the first-half performance of Gael Kakuta. I really had forgotten about his existence.
85 min: Real almost score a third. Bale uses his speed to beat Cobeno to a through ball, but his touch takes him too far wide for a shot. Instead he sets up Isco in the area and his shot is pushed out by Cobeno, hits a defender and prangs straight back into the hands of the goalkeeper.
83 min: The Rayo fans are still bouncing up and down. It’s just like Selhurst Park.
81 min: Miku shoots from 20 yards. Casillas saves. Rayo aren’t giving up. But they probably should. It’s over. Embarba is replaced by Javier Aquino.
79 min: Apropos of nothing.
76 min: Kroos bends one over the bar from 25 yards.
GOAL! Rayo Vallecano 0-2 Real Madrid (James Rodriguez, 74 min)
This is a classy goal. James pops up on the edge of the area, opens up his body and then curls the ball into the bottom-right corner with his left foot. He’s very good. It has been a brave effort from Rayo, but the points are Real’s.
72 min: Isco replaces Karim Benzema.
71 min: This is a good response from Rayo. Kakuta crosses from the right and Ramos’s clearing header runs for Nacho, whose piledriver from 25 yards stings the palm of Casillas. The Real goalkeeper must have been grateful that one was straight at him. It was travelling at quite some pace.
69 min: Rayo bring on Miku for Alberto Bueno
GOAL! Rayo Vallecano 0-1 Real Madrid (Ronaldo, 68 min)
Real take my advice on board and score. Dani Carvajal shows great endeavour and pace on the right flank, bursting past his man and racing into the area, and his cross is headed home by Ronaldo from six yards out! That’s his 48th goal of the season and his 300th competitive goal for Real. His 48th! His 300th! He is a ludicrous specimen.
66 min: Remember, Barcelona beat Almeria 4-0 earlier. If this ends 0-0, Barcelona will have a six-point lead over Real. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have to score.
65 min: Marcelo speeds down the left and rolls a pass inside to James on the edge of the area. He wriggles clear of a couple of defenders, working the ball on to his left foot, and then skelps an effort just over.
64 min: The lively Embarba swerves inside and bounces a shot straight at Casillas from 25 yards.
63 min: Amaya, the villain who got away with fouling Ronaldo in the area, is booked for taking out Bale on the right.
62 min: Cobeno reacts sharply to a through-ball from James, getting there ahead of Marcelo. Then Ronaldo’s chipped cross reaches Benzema, whose snapshot hits a Rayo defender. “Just wondering,” says Gloria Greppi. “Who was that Guardian writer that said we shouldn’t talk about refs?” Take it up with Barney Ronay. Would you like his phone number? You can call him at any hour.
61 min: The Rayo goalkeeper, Cobeno, is booked for taking too long over the goal-kick. It’s not often you’ll see a keeper booked this early for timewasting.
60 min: Bale’s cutback from the right is met on the full by Ronaldo, but he can’t get over the ball and blazes miles over from 18 yards. Real’s frustration grows.
58 min: “Errrr, joined this mbm a bit late,” says John Archdeacon. “Haven’t researched whether this is appropriate. Can’t be bothered. This is a Arshavin-nut-Meg-goal on Van de sar. Happy days. Typical Arshavin? Not particularly. Have I got the wrong end of the stick? Would hate to upset the Big J-Wilson.”
57 min: Mohamed Fatau is replaced by Jozabed Sánchez Ruiz.
56 min: The beast has stirred. Bale runs at Nacho, pushing him back into the area, and arrows a fizzing effort just wide of the right post with his left foot from 20 yards. A goal is on the cards.
55 min: I thought this was in. Ronaldo lays a pass back to Marcelo, who hammers a rising drive inches past the right post from 25 yards with his left foot. That was packing a serious punch. I’m surprised it didn’t sear through the advertising hoarding behind the goal.
54 min: Real need to be careful. Carvajal becomes the latest player to go into the book. Real need to calm down, but their annoyance is understandable.
53 min: Benzema darts into the area on the right and pulls a shot wide of the far post. That was a good chance. Maybe that injustice will spark Real into life.
52 min: Real have the hot heat on and now Kroos is booked for a foul.
51 min: This is outrageous! With Rayo’s defence nowhere to be seen, Ronaldo bombs clear down the left and charges into the Rayo area. Amaya comes across to confront him, so Ronaldo decides to duck inside, back on to his right foot, and his turn is enough to fool the defender, who sends him flying. It’s a clear penalty and possibly a red card for Amaya, but incredibly the referee books Ronaldo. That is a preposterous decision and Ronaldo will miss Real’s next match. He’s incensed and no wonder. That is unbelievable, one of the most obvious penalties you will ever see.
50 min: Nacho has two shots from long range. Both are blocked. Real counter, and...
48 min: James darts down the left and crosses early. Bale steals in between the two Rayo defenders and jerks himself at the ball in the Buckaroo style, but his header loops wide.
47 min: If anyone is reading this, Jonathan Wilson has a task for you.
46 min: The second half begins with Kakuta and Marcelo clashing heads in the Real area. They’re both fine soon enough.
Half-time: Rayo Vallecano 0-0 Real Madrid
The Rayo fans roar. Real Madrid’s players look perturbed. They’ll be six points behind Barcelona if it stays like this.
44 min: Casillas makes a fine save to deny Rayo the opening goal. Tito whips a glorious cross to the far post from the right and Trashorras arrives late and nuts his header goalwards from six yards out, only for Casillas to push it away! Trashorras should have scored. Moments later Nacho is booked.
41 min: This is a good opportunity for Ronaldo. James’s free-kick from the left reaches him six yards from goal and he heads over. His interminable wait for his 300th Real Madrid goal goes on.
40 min: Tito picks up Rayo’s first booking, cynically pulling Ronaldo back on the left.
39 min: Bale tries to slip a pass through to Benzema, but it’s a poor effort, easily cut out by Ze Castro.
37 min: This is extremely sluggish from Real.
35 min: Rayo almost press the self-destruct button and ruin all their good work! A dreadful backpass from Kakuta is almost seized upon by Benzema, but luckily for Rayo, Cobeno is alert to the danger and slides in to hack to the ball away.
33 min: This is the closest Rayo have come. Embarba swings a corner to the near post. It’s flicked on and hits Manucho on the ball, the deflection almost flashing past Casillas, who has to react smartly to plunge down low and grab the ball before it crosses the line. Real are not comfortable at all.
32 min: It’s not exactly backs-against-the-wall for Real, but they are offering very little. Rayo are firmly in control of this match, although there’s always the fear that they could be caught by Real’s speed on the break.
30 min: Modric slides a pass through to Ronaldo on the right. He tries to power towards goal, but he’s outmuscled by Nacho and goes to ground before looking plaintively at the referee. He is not getting a penalty. Not just yet, anyway.
28 min: Real get the corner away, but the pressure continues. Another cross is flung into the area and Ramos’s header falls to Amaya. He brings it down and shoots, but Ramos is in the way. This is one hell of a scrap for Real.
27 min: Embarba, a nifty little player, produces a couple of stepovers to confound Carvajal and then curls a cross into the middle. It’s just too high for Manucho and Varane heads it away. It’s not long before Embarba has won another corner, though. Rayo are showing no fear! It’s not in their DNA.
26 min: Real are running out of time in which to score nine goals.
23 min: Gareth Bale brilliantly wallops a left-footed volley past Cobeno after he was found by a lovely pass over the top from Modric, but the flag is up for offside. No goal! Which is presumably evidence of an anti-Madrid campaign or whatever.
22 min: Bueno stabs a pass through to Manucho, forcing Casillas to race out of his area and boot the ball out for a throw. Rayo are playing well. Real haven’t had a coherent attack for around 10 minutes.
20 min: James Rodriguez is booked for handball. He’ll miss the game against Eibar this weekend.
19 min: Manucho picks Kroos’s pocket and sets up an attack down the left. They win another corner, but it’s overhit. Everyone was at the near post and the ball went over them all.
17 min: “Evening Jacob, Rayo will be a sterner test for RM, that nine goal rout of Granada the other day might be enough to restart Real’s season they’ve flatlined since Xmas after being “Winter Champions”(Codswallop),” says John McEnerney. “They could end up with nothing this season & Carlo will be shown the door. Right now they don’t look like champions of anything forget about the Granada game, up against a top team they’d struggle big time. They’re dodgy at the back & will be punished by better teams than they face in La Liga week in week out. Big games ahead & their big game players need to put in big performances.”
And of course they lost the Clasico. They played well until Suarez’s winner that night and collapsed after they went 2-1 down. The response was worryingly meek.
16 min: Gael Kakuta shoots from 40 yards and
obviously he scores the ball jets off in the general direction of the Bernabeu.
15 min: Gael Kakuta, future Ballon d’Or winner, dances easily away from two Real players on the right and moves the ball on to Bueno. He lets fly from 25 yards with his left foot and Casillas has to get down and push the ball wide for a corner.
12 min: Kakuta, the legend of Stamford Bridge, drops a shoulder and sprays a pass out to Embarba on the left. Embarba moves on to his right foot and clips a 20-yarder a few yards wide of the far post. Casillas was worried. He dived. That all came from Kakuta. What a player he is. He could be the answer for Chelsea, you know.
10 min: Gael Kakuta, though! What a fuss Chelsea made to get him. He’s still their player as well. He’s only on loan at Rayo, one of Chelsea’s 432 loanees. Back to the football, Real create another chance and James fluffs it. Modric releases Carvajal on the right and he cuts it back to James, who sidefoots his shot straight at Cobeno.
9 min: Gael Kakuta - remember him? - turns away from Toni Kroos and skews a shot well wide from 20 yards.
8 min: James is such a lovely player. He finds space on the left and hangs a ball towards the far post. It drops on to Ronaldo’s right foot and he angles one just wide of the far post. Close.
7 min: James tries to send Benzema through on goal. The flag goes up for offside.
4 min: Rayo continue to press. Bueno curls a free-kick from 25 yards into the wall. Not very bueno. Does that make sense? Not sure. It’s late. And soon Rayo have another corner. Real are under pressure here. Rayo fancy this, but nothing comes from the corner again.
2 min: This is a bright start. Embarba cuts in from the left and curls a cross towards Manucho, who’s unmarked at the far post. Ramos stretches to head it over for a corner, which comes to nothing. That was an important intervention.
And we’re off! Real, all in black, get the ball rolling and they’re kicking from right to left in the first half. Rayo are wearing white shirts with a red stripe down the middle.
Here come the players! Soon there will be football. Please keep me company during it.
It’s finished Barcelona 4-0 Almeria. Over to Real. They really need to win.
It’s 4-0 to Barcelona! Pedro brilliantly sets up Luis Suarez for his second and they’re going seven points clear of Real Madrid. The pressure is on them now.
Barcelona can’t stop scoring from set-pieces. Marc Bartra heads in from a corner to make it 3-0 with 15 minutes to go and any minute now Luis Enrique is going to pull away a mask and reveal that he’s actually Sam Allardyce.
Rayo Vallecano: Cobeno; Tito, Zé Castro, Amaya, Nacho; Fatau, Trashorras; Kakuta, Bueno, Embarba; Manucho.
Real Madrid: Casillas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, James; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo.
Barcelona, the leaders, are playing now. They lead Almeria 2-0 at Camp Nou in the second half. Leo Messi got the first with a peach of a goal and Luis Suarez has just added another.
Actually Real probably won’t get into double figures tonight. Rayo, their Madrid neighbours, are eighth in La Liga.
So how many will Real Madrid score tonight? Eight? Nine? Ten? Eleven? One hundred? One million? None? There’s a prize for the person who guesses correctly!
Kick-off: 9pm in England, 10pm in Spain.