It had been 3 weeks since our last La Liga game and this was going to be our third match of the season.
It seemed Atleti’s quick three goals after the break sealed the deal, but Rayo scored a triple themselves and left us sweating in the last three minutes of the game.
But in the end Atlético got away with the three points.
The battle between Madrid’s two best teams long seemed a balanced affair, but a rampage of goals on either side made for a spectacular finish to a seven-goal thriller at the Vicente Calderón, with the Super Cup-winners eventually coming out on top.
Rayo daringly played with just three men at the back when in possession, which helped them clot the midfield and interrupt Atleti’s passing lanes. This led to a messy clash with hardly any passing combinations and few opportunities for either side.
However, Paco Jémez’ tactics also left Rayo vulnerable in transition and Atleti looked to profit from the spaces that the visitors left on the right side of their defence. On quick breaks Arda Turan and Diego Costa took advantage of the freedom they were allowed and the duo combined for our first attempt on goal.
It was Diego Costa who tested Rayo ‘keeper Dani with a low drive from the edge of the box.
After half an hour Diego Costa again moved down the left wing and he made it all the way to the back line, where he pulled the ball back across goal. Mario Suárez was waiting near the second post and had no problems putting the ball into the back of the empty net to give Atleti the lead.
In the last seconds of the first half Arda Turan should have doubled our lead after an immaculate pass by Mario, but the Turk’s chip over the goalkeeper was cleared from the goal line by a defender and the his second attempt went off target.
The first half of the game had been even, but Atleti really seemed to have decided the game after the break. The Rojiblancos came out all-guns-blazing and separated themselves from their opposition with three quick goals in just seven minutes.
This time Diego Costa showed up on the right side of the box and from there he delivered a perfect assist for Koke, who comfortably scored Atlético’s second goal.
It seems the young canterano wasn’t kidding when he said players other than Falcao should take over some of the goalscoring responsibilities.
Fans back at home thought the director was still playing replays of the goal, when less than a minute later Atleti scored again. From exactly the same position as Koke, it was now Arda Turan who put the ball into the back of the net after a cross from the right side. This time it was Juanfran with the assist, but it was again Costa who had set up the attack.
And before the fans could blink Atleti were again on their way to the Rayo goal. Diego Costa was tripped inside the box and earned a penalty. Although he was later substituted, the Brazilian left a fantastic impression with two assists, a hand in the third goal and won a penalty – all in his first start for Atlético since May 2011.
The penalty, of course, was converted by Radamel Falcao.
Atleti nearly scored a fifth when Arda shot just wide after a long exchange of short passes down Atleti’s left side.
Rayo, who had been more than capable to keep up with Atleti in the first half, were unlucky not to score when Leo’s header smashed against the crossbar.
The Vallecanos did get their first of what would eventually be three consolation goals in the 82nd minute. After a cross from Chori Castro it was Delibasic who beat the entire Atleti defence to the ball to make it 4-1.
Delibasic scored again just a handful of minutes later, when the Atleti defence again seemed to have lost attention. Rayo’s goal was almost identical, only this time the cross by Lass Bangoura came from the left side, with Delibasic popping up behind our defensive line for a second time.
Still nothing seemed wrong for Atleti, who had enjoyed such a comfortable lead. However, nerves seemed to get the better of Diego Godín & Co., because Atleti failed to clear the ball and after a messy skirmish Leo Baptistão profited to make it 4-3 with a few minutes still left to play.
Rayo scored three goals nearly as quickly as Atleti had, but in the end Mario’s first half goal proved to be decisive as Atleti managed to just hang on.
Line-up: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe; Koke, Gabi, Mario (“64 Tiago), Arda (“66 Adrián); Diego Costa (“56 Rodríguez) and Falcao.
Goals: 1-0 Mario (“29); 2-0 Koke (“50); 3-0 Arda (“51); 4-0 Falcao p.k. (“56); 4-1 Delibasic (“82); 4-2 Delibasic (“85); 4-3 Leo Baptistão (“89)