Falcao did it again. His signing for Rayo has been ground gold for the Vallecano team. He went out to the pitch for a few minutes in San Mamés and once again made Athletic’s night bitter, as in Bucharest, in the final of the Europa League a decade ago, but the scoring instinct, regardless of the injuries that have kept him away from the areas, it does not fade so easily. In a minute, with the discount of the match reaching its end, he caused a foul from Iñigo Martínez, a yellow card to the rojiblanco center-back, and he headed Bebe’s center with his inimitable style to give victory to his team . In Bucharest he gave Iraola a dislike; this time, a joy.
The coach was returning to San Mamés after his retirement as a footballer, although he had gone several times to his town as an Athletic partner, and his departure to the pitch went unnoticed amidst the chants and the tribute to Santurtzi’s drifter, winner of the centennial Flag de San Sebastián 35 years after the last one, but the way his team worked did attract attention.
The Rayo Vallecano de Iraola begins to take shape, despite its modesty, the tight budget and the cyclical conflicts between its president and the fans. He entered the field with personality, without wrinkling and trying to hit where it hurts the most, and he gave it right away, when Guardiola swiped the ball from Vesga, who fell asleep, and scored a goal for Álvaro, who beat Unai Simón on your way out. It was minute 5, with everything to do, but with many things already done by Rayo against Athletic that lost focus with the goal and did not find the way to Dimitrievski’s goal. The Madrilenians played with ease and the Bilbaoans —with many changes in the lineup—, corseted, stiff, no matter how much Muniain tried to impose a logical order on things. The goalkeeper of Rayo only received assignments and lost balls by Athletic, which in the middle of the first half, finally managed to chain a little bit of arrivals to the area, squeezing Rayo.
Half an hour later, with no news yet from the rojiblanca vanguard, a lateral foul on Muniain became the momentary salvation of Athletic. The captain threw it close and Pathe Ciss headed towards her own goal to local glee. He squeezed Marcelino’s team then. He had regained faith, and although Rayo lost ground, he did not have too much trouble until the break, except in a wall between Nico Williams and Raúl García that Iñaki’s little brother finished off a few inches from the post.
With the second half came the deluge and the game got out of control. Rayo took a step back and gave all the initiative to Athletic, who tried to push through the wings. Isi and Unai López were not as entangled as in the first half, and it was noticeable in the Rayista game, although the Bilbao players did not arrive with the clarity that the game required either, so Marcelino took out all his artillery. The team became recognizable, very similar to the usual during the first days, but nevertheless, the football thickened. Iraola’s pieces were rebuilt halfway through the set and made life impossible for Athletic, who ran but did not find too many loopholes through which to tickle the Madrilenians, who defended their territory well, without causing difficulties for Dimitrievski.
The interest that Athletic put in was commendable, as almost always, but it did not come to win the game, or even to tie it, because Falcao appeared with his instinct that does not expire, and the points were taken by Rayo.