The first half-hour, though, totally belonged to the visitors. Paco Jemez sent his team out in a 4-2-3-1 with Roberto Trashorras pulling the strings in midfield. The Yellow Submarine had trouble with the extra man in midfield, and even more trouble with that man's quick outlet pass down one of our wings--usually our left, where Adrian Marin was finding like a little harder than he had against Granada. He wasn't getting any help from midfield, either--Cani was too tight and not tracking back.
After several dangerous signals that a goal was imminent, it came in the 22nd minute when Kakuta powered a strong header past Asenjo. There was no pressure put on the cross, and no one near Kakuta. Seven minutes later Alberto Bueno slammed home the second goal with our defense again wanting, and it looked bad.
Fortunately, we weren't two goals behind for long. A training-ground free-kick maneuver--Bruno to Uche to Cheryshev--resulted in a shot that was stopped by the keeper, but only as far as a wide open Espinosa who tapped the ball home. Villarreal could have evened things up shortly afterward but Uche's chip went off the post with the goal gaping.
HT Villarreal 1-2 Rayo Vallecano
The second half was much different. Rayo did have a chance at a third goal early on, but Asenjo made a fine save; other than that, it was pretty much all Villarreal. We seemed to be withdrawing Cheryshev more so we countered the midfield disadvantage, and we also did a better job of cutting off the passes down the wings. It was beginning to look as though Rayo's keeper Alvarez was going to save them, though--he saved from Cheryshev and Uche though he was being bombarded with shots--and the Rayo defense was surviving, barely.
Marcelino brought on Vietto in the 58th minute for Espinosa, and now we really did have Cheryshev on a wing. Five minutes later we equalized from one of a series of corners, Musacchio heading the goal at the far post.
Jonathan dos Santos came on for Trigueros in the 67th minute, and it was all Villarreal now. Rayo looked exhausted and were hanging on by their fingernails---until dos Santos made a fine crossfield pass to Cheryshev, he made an equally fine pass into the box for the onrushing Vietto, in acres of space, to score our third goal. Fifteen minutes to go, and it never looked like Rayo were going to come back. The same trip combined on another goal with three minutes of regular time remaining.
FT Villarreal 4-2 Rayo Vallecano
Only the second time we have come from two goals down in El Madrigal to win--the first was against Atletico in 2005. The comeback owed some to Rayo's refusal/inability to protect a 2-0 lead--scoring a goal so soon after their second was a key--but also Marcelino made the moves he needed to in the second half, and they paid off.
Men of the match for me were Uche, Cheryshev, Vietto and Jonathan dos Santos.