As the scoreboard at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas ticked beyond the ninety minute mark a wild cheer could be heard even amongst the celebratory Madridistas in the Spanish capital. Fans burst onto the pitch sporadically but soon continuously, screaming their emotions to the sky as the final game of the season effectively ended with the decisive final kick. Rayo Vallecano fans roared in triumph with their hero Raul Tamudo, yet it could all have been so different.
Winning a game deep into injury time ranks highest in football fan euphoria but when it seals a club’s safety for another season against all expectations you can forgive the Vallecano pitch invasion somewhat. Many of whom leapt onto the turf had supported the team with similar passion as they had on that most important of evenings and needn’t have endured a torrid game wrought with fear.
Mirroring the fans’ devotion for Madrid’s fourth team, had Rayo given up they’d be seen in similar light as the calamitous board. The club gave teams a real test, especially at their cramped, three sided home. Drawing just four games all season proved their determination and reckless attitude which had served them so well up until the final 10 games.
A dreadful lapse had allowed teams below to catch up and suck Rayo towards the Segunda. A particularly impressive fightback from Zaragoza piled the pressure on the Madrid minnows who suddenly looked out of their depth as they tumbled towards the drop. It appeared the club’s naivety and lack of responsibility would cost them.
Promoted whilst still in the grip of administration, Rayo weren’t given a hope of staying up at the start of the season, yet the club never languished in the bottom three at all. Due to a lazy run of results however they found themselves needing something from their last game against Granada.
With Zaragoza hailing a miracle escape, Rayo found themselves going down on the final day as they and Villarreal drew 0-0 with Granada and Atletico respectively going into the final minutes.
Falcao scored for Atletico and within seconds Tamudo found the net despite being noticeably offside. Cue a mass pitch invasion, the most controversial moment of the season and a financially healthy Villarreal stunningly succumb thanks to the pocket-less Zaragoza and Vallecano.
Somewhat unfairly, Rayo remain to contest the 12/13 La Liga season but shouldn’t be too thankful for Tamudo’s tap-in. A tricky season should finish off Vallecano as their irresponsible actions, both on and off the pitch, should be punished properly this year.
Playmaker Michu has departed after his extraordinary 15 goals last year leaving the goalscoring down to another unknown quantity. Surely the club can’t produce another prolific hero to ease their safety fears? Even Raul Tamudo has turned down the permanent adoration of Rayo’s ultras for a move away.
It seems about as unlikely as Zaragoza’s great escape, especially when the defense conceded almost as many goals last season as England should have at the Euro’s. 73 shots found their way into Rayo’s net and whilst the 53 scored marred their impact, the loss of Michu and Tamudo will make the figure more noticeable this season.
Paco Jemez takes charge after a dispute between the club’s owners resulted in the sacking of Jose Ramon Sandoval and the financial situation at the club remains. You imagine that the glories of last season could fade from memory quicker than many would have imagined.
La Liga: 15th
Copa del Rey: Round of 32 (lost to Racing on away goals)
Adrian Gonzalez free from Racing
Alex Galvez free from Sporting Gijon
Jose Carlos free from AEK Athens
Jordi Amat loan from Espanyol
Nicki Bille loan from Villarreal
Raul Tamudo free to Pachuca
Michu €2million to Swansea
Alejandro Arribas free to Osasuna
One to Watch: Jordi Amat