Tonight Real Sociedad were too much for Rayo Vallecano. And especially Carlos Vela. The Mexican destroyed the visitors with two goals in two minutes, and forced Paco to play with a three man defence. It was the prelude to a self-destruction, another one, from a Rayo team who peer over the edge of the precipice every week. This time there was no-one there to stop them tumbling over and Real kicked them on their way down, with Rubén Pardo the main man for the home team.
The game had spice from the first minute. Mateu Lahoz chalked off a Real goal for a handball from Uruguayan Ifrán, who was then booked. It was the first of a trilogy of yellow cards in the first nine minutes of the encounter; in six minutes Tito went in the book, followed by Casado in nine.
Pretty soon the hosts had made it clear they wanted the ball, and Illarramendi has ability and quality for that type of task, as does his team mate Rubén Pardo, one of the names that shone brightly in the first half. They moved the ball about with ease and set a fine rhythm for Real's play. Rayo couldn't settle. Their guiding light Trashorras was dim, and Piti and José Carlos produced little of note.
Only Leo Baptistao for the visitors was showing he has the potential to be an outstanding player. The 20 year old Brazilian was responsible for Rayo's only effort in the first 20 minutes, leaving the home defence lost, with a gazelle-like turn of pace, but erring with his final decision to cross; a shot was the right option.
A second controversial moment went by almost unnoticed, in main due to the cunning of the protagonist. Rayo's central defender Gálvez raised his hands to his face after blocking a shot, as if he'd been struck on the head, when in fact he had stopped the ball with his hands. He was in the area, but his quick thinking appeared to avoid the award of a penalty.
In the 30th minute Real Sociedad took off. Rayo's lacklustre defence, added to their good football, allowed the hosts to rush in and snaffle two goals in as many minutes, thanks to the inspired Carlos Vela. The first came from a mistake from Rayo when playing the offside trap; the second from a magisterial pass from Rubén Pardo.
Rayo were on the canvas, but the Real wanted to keep on at them until they threw in the towel. The only reason Rayo didn't wasn't the performance from Cobeño, who saved his team on at least three occasions before the break. The best chances fell to Pardo, with a volley that left the Madrid keeper stretching, and to Illarramendi, with a header from a corner. In the 39th minute, to complete his repertoire of saves Cobeño stopped a shot from Ifrán.
After the break Delibasic came on for Casado, which translated into a new version of the picturesque three man defence employed by Paco Jémez. Rayo went back to going from good to bad, from the sublime to the ridiculous. It was all a mirage in any event, despite a couple of chances from Trashorras and Javi Fuego, Real soon put an end to the match.
In the 60th minute Mikel González scored the third, taking advantage of a cracking cross from Carlos Vela, and ripping the few frayed strands of hope left from the tattered fingers of the Rayo fans. Chori Castro then made sure with the fourth, ensuring that the live grenade Rayo play with every weekend this time exploded firmly in their faces.