Although Rayo made for an entertaining end-to-end match, Jémez’ side ended up paying quite dearly for its courage
Barcelona was never really tested to the limit in Sunday’s match against Rayo Vallecano. As expected, Paco Jémez’ men came into the match with an extremely brave approach and a very high defense line, which ended up playing into Barcelona’s hands: There were a lot of spaces that the team managed to capitalize on in the second half.
Barcelona rarely faces a team like Rayo at the Camp Nou. Most opponents come to Catalonia with a defensive mind-set and the mentality of trying to close down all spaces. Rayo was different, they didn’t really moderate their usual approach and although it made for an entertaining end-to-end match, Jémez’ side ended up paying quite dearly for its courage.
Below is an image of the build-up to one of Barcelona’s best chances in the first half. You can see that Xavi is running with the ball and has acres of space between the opponent’s defense and midfield. Meanwhile, there are four players on Xavi’s left-hand side ready to penetrate the high line. This is the kind of scenario that Barcelona enjoys but rarely faces. Against Rayo, this happened several times.
Suárez and Pedro were especially active in making these runs behind the line and could both have helped Barcelona to a 3-goal lead by half-time, only let down by the final ball. Noticeably, Messi wasn’t quite as active in making these runs in what was a rather quiet match by his standards anyway. The Argentine only completed 38 passes in the game (out of 42 attempts), which is a lot lower figure than in some of his more dominant performances. Of course, Messi went on to score a hat-trick despite this, which only highlights the great collective performance.