Match-winner Adrian Embarba insisted relegation-threatened Rayo Vallecano had worked harder than Real Madrid after pulling off a shock LaLiga victory.
Embarba’s first-half penalty secured a priceless 1-0 win at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas on Sunday evening to rekindle their survival hopes, which nevertheless remain bleak.
The 26-year-old told LaLiga TV: “Obviously we are fighting to survive. They’re a great team, Real Madrid, but they had nothing to play for and I think that’s what made the difference, the need we had to win, the necessity we felt.
“We put pressure on them from the very first minute, I think we worked harder than they did and that’s why we got the three points.”
If Rayo’s win was well deserved, it came courtesy of the VAR after referee Pablo Gonzales Fuertes was invited to review Jesus Vallejo‘s challenge on Javi Guerra.
Real had cleared the ball and broken at pace with home goalkeeper Alberto Garcia saving well from Gareth Bale, but after Fuertes had viewed the footage, he pointed to the spot and Embarba sent Thibaut Courtois the wrong way to win the game.
Asked what he was thinking as the referee was making his decision, Embarba said: “Javi Guerra said to me that yes, it was a penalty. He was absolutely certain, so I was thinking about where to hit it.
“I just waited a little bit for Courtois and then hit it the other way.”
Rayo find themselves six points adrift of safety with three games to play – against fellow strugglers Levante, Real Valladolid and Celta Vigo – and Embarba is refusing to give up hope.
He said: “We’ve got three games, three direct rivals. More than three points, they’re games in which six points are at play.
“We have to hold on to that. We have to win the nine points we have got left to play for.”
If there was jubilation among the home ranks, Zinedine Zidane’s men were once again far from at their best as their hopes of reeling in second-placed Atletico Madrid were effectively dashed.
Defender Vallejo said: “We came here with the idea of trying to win, we couldn’t do it.
“We’re going to have to keep working, rest for a couple of days and then think of the next game and finish the season as high up the table as we can.
“When you represent Real Madrid, every game is important. We have to do our best.
“I’m one of those who thinks that you don’t have to qualify for the Champions League or win LaLiga to be motivated, you have to give 100 per cent every time and enjoy this wonderful profession.”
Asked about the penalty decision, Vallejo was philosophical.
He said: “I think Javi was going to shoot at the near post. I tried to get in there and block his progress.
“There was a bit of physical contact between us, but I have seen similar moves not rewarded with a penalty.”