Copa del Rey: Rayo 1 – 1 Atlético
Saúl grabs an important away goal in Copa del Rey first leg stalemate
Atlético Madrid have work to do if they are to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey, after coming from behind to draw 1-1 at Rayo Vallecano on Thursday night.
Nacho Martínez opened the scoring for the hosts before half-time, before substitute Saúl hit the equaliser midway through the second half following good work from Luciano Vietto and Matías Kranevitter.
Kranevitter was making his debut for the red and whites, as Simeone opted to throw him and fellow new boy Augusto Fernández straight into a line-up that featured ten changes from the team that beat Levante at the weekend.
However, his rotations didn’t quite have the desired effect, particularly during the first half as Atleti failed to create anything of note.
Fernando Torres again looked isolated up front on his own, and the hosts went ahead deservedly on 35 minutes via a spectacular goal from left-back Nacho.
After pouncing onto a misplaced pass in midfield from man of the moment Thomas Partey, the Rayo man let fly from outside the box and beat Miguel Ángel Moyà with a superbly struck left-footed drive.
The away side’s only real openings came towards the end of the half, first when Juan Carlos had to be alert to deny Carrasco from close range, and then as Giménez headed just wide moments later.
Diego Llorente came within inches of sending Paco Jémez’s side into the break two up, but headed straight at Moyà from a corner. Either side of him and the net would have bulged.
Things didn’t improve after the interval, and as has been the case in many games this season, the turning point came as Cholo shuffled the pack and introduced a couple of substitutes.
Óliver Torres – quiet again in a wide role, and debutant Augusto made way for Saúl Ñíguez and Luciano Vietto, and it was the combination of those two that resulted in the equalising goal.
The impressive Kranevitter found his compatriot Vietto out wide with a cross-field ball, and he skipped inside his marker before cleverly cutting the ball back for Saúl to finish calmly.
It was a delightfully well worked goal, but in truth, the only real moment of quality that Atleti produced throughout the 90 minutes.
Still, if it wasn’t for a couple of vital interventions from goalkeeper Juan Carlos, it could have been a win for the red and whites going into next week’s second leg.
With ten minutes on the clock, the Rayo number two made a stunning reaction save to deny Vietto what looked to be a certain goal after he volleyed Carrasco’s free-kick towards him.
The Belgian winger then had a golden opportunity of his own, but was thwarted by Juan Carlos as he tried to go round him with a timely challenge.
Rayo were also looking for a winner of their own at the other end as 17 year-old substitute Joni Montiel caused havoc, but the game fizzled out and ended all square.
Thanks to the away goal, Atleti have the advantage at the half-way stage in the tie, but will need a good performance in the return match against a team with nothing to lose.
On Sunday, we travel to Celta Vigo for a crucial clash in La Liga, before facing Rayo again next Thursday night.
|Rayo Vallecano||11||Atlético Madrid|
|Nacho 35'||Saúl 67'|
|Copa del Rey (16)|
|06 January 2016|