As every time Rayo Vallecano play Barcelona since Paco Jémez was on the Vallecas bench, the debate about his approach and the way he faces the match is at the center of attention. Too risky, kamikaze style...Jémez and his men have always been razed by Barcelona, managing to compete just a few minutes each time. But this approach – the same one he uses all season long – has helped him to maintain the small club from Madrid in the Spanish top flight and even battle for a Europa League spot in some occasion. If by parking the bus he also has many chances of losing, why should he betray what works for him in other matches to reach his target? He lost today one more time, but he did it his way.

From the kickoff, the only novelties were Barcelona’s full backs (Sergi Roberto and Mathieu) because as expected, Rayo Vallecano played the match without fear, pressuring with a high defensive block and personal marking. The clash started off with an initial chance for the locals but Claudio Bravo blocked Embarba’s shot. Barcelona were having issues playing the ball from the back but every long pass meant a three versus three in the attacking front. Suárez, Messi, and Neymar would be less involved than in other occasions but each one of their attacks could be lethal.

The culés’ opening goal arrived in an unexpected fashion though. After a good collective play that was finished with a Messi shot and a great save by Juan Carlos, Rayo’s goalie made a huge mistake by failing to catch a cross which seemed harmless from Sergi Roberto. Rakitic didn’t waste the opportunity and he’s now the stop scorer with 14 goals – not counting the trident – since Luis Enrique took over Barça’s helm. In the next play, a fast Messi-Neymar-Messi transition ended up in the back of the net. Messi’s goal.

From this moment on, the local team began to struggle. Rayo were playing far away from the culé area. Without the chance to attack the space, they couldn’t rest with the ball possession either. They were losing it too soon, obviously caused by the scoreboard’s psychological effect and by Barcelona’s pressure. It got even harder with Llorente’s ejection who tackled Rakitic by his knee while disputing a ball.

Rayo did not take a step back on their intentions despite the score and being down to 10 men since the first scoring chance and the initial dominance of the second half were theirs. But Barcelona overcome when they are about to bite the dust and from another counterattack Messi scored his second goal. From a Rayo Vallecano corner kick to the 0-3 in a heartbeat. But that would quickly change with a cross to the far post where Bebé gained the position over Sergi Roberto and assisted Manucho for the goal. Rayo were playing with 10 men and facing a two-goal deficit against the La Liga leaders, with just three defenders. It was a goal which rewarded their courage.

A foul by Iturra on Busquets (who started the play in an offside position) in the box meant the ejection of the hardworking midfielder but the subsequent penalty was missed by Luis Suárez. Another one in Barcelona’s count and there have been eight of them already this season. “As long as it doesn’t affect the outcome…,” says Luis Enrique.

Messi rounded up his performance with a hat trick on the next play, something we almost take for granted these days. There was enough time for Arda Turan to score his first goal wearing the Blaugrana jersey, for Neymar to force his fifth yellow card – he will miss the next match against Eibar on Sunday – and for the local crowd to applaud their squad’s perseverance and commitment. They don’t have any doubts regarding the aforementioned debate.

Luis Enrique’s ranks have now 35 straight unbeaten matches, surpassing the previous record of Leo Beenhakker’s Real Madrid from the ‘88-‘89 season, with a balance of 36 scored goals and just five conceded in eight clashes against Paco Jémez’ Rayo.

It was just another day at the office for Messi and co., who are on the right track to retain the league title. Rayo were defeated once again but they are strong candidates to achieve permanence in the Spanish first division on yet another season and with much less resources than other clubs.

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Article translated from Spanish to English, originally published at the Perarnau Magazine by Ismael Ledesma.