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Real Madrid's miserable season hits new low with shock Rayo defeat

The European champions latest indignity it a defeat to a team languishing in 19th position.

Zidane, head bowed, reacts at full-time of Madrid's latest defeat.
Zidane, head bowed, reacts at full-time of Madrid's latest defeat.
Image: Paul White

KARIM BENZEMA’S ABSENCE was felt by Real Madrid as Zinedine Zidane’s side slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat at La Liga strugglers Rayo Vallecano.

Madrid’s leading scorer Benzema – who has netted the club’s last eight La Liga goals – may miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, and without their talisman the European champions put in a tame display at Estadio de Vallecas.

VAR played a crucial role in Rayo’s first victory over Madrid since 1997 – referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes changing his initial decision not to award the hosts a penalty for a foul by Jesus Vallejo.

Adrian Embarba duly slotted home from 12 yards and Rayo’s lead was hardly threatened as Madrid succumbed to a defeat that all but ends their hopes of finishing second.

Mariano Diaz, in for Benzema, saw an early chance blocked by Abdoulaye Ba, while Thibaut Courtois denied Jose Pozo an opener at the other end.

Javi Guerra looked set to prod home a wonderful Alex Moreno cross soon after, only for Vallejo to get there first.

However, after initially letting play to continue – Gareth Bale seeing a one-on-one effort saved by Alberto Garcia in the intervening period – the referee brought the play back and, after consulting with VAR, deemed that Vallejo had in fact dragged Guerra down, with Embarba making no mistake from the resultant spot-kick.

Embarba almost caught Courtois out with a cross-shot shortly after the restart, before Madrid’s goalkeeper made a smart stop to deny Bebe.

Garcia reacted sharply to keep out a dipping Bale free-kick with 20 minutes remaining, but that was all Madrid could muster as Rayo held firm to secure a famous victory and boost their slim hopes of survival in the process.

With Atletico Madrid having beat Real Valladolid on Saturday, Madrid – winless on the road under Zidane so far – are now nine points behind their neighbours with three games remaining, meaning that one more point will be enough to secure second place for Diego Simeone’s side.

Rayo, meanwhile, are up to 19th, six points adrift of safety.

Although on the losing side, Thibault Courtois can at least point to an impressive individual display as reason for Zidane to stand by him, with the Frenchman having preferred Keylor Navas since returning for a second stint as coach.

The former Chelsea goalkeeper made a string of quality stops on his first La Liga start since Santiago Solari’s last match in charge on March 10, and without him the scoreline would have been even more humiliating for Madrid.

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