Barcelona ease past Rayo Vallecano


Barcelona remain at the top of the Primera Division table following a comfortable yet unremarkable 2-0 win at Rayo Vallecano, who had two men sent off in the second half. The Madrid side made a promising start to the game but Lionel Messi got the visitors off the mark after 34 minutes and a moment later Neymar doubled the advantage to kill off Rayo's hopes. The hosts were reduced to 10 men on the hour mark when Jorge Morcillo received a second booking, and Rayo forward Javier Aquino suffered the same fate in injury time, but they conceded no further goals. Barca goalkeeper Claudio Bravo also made club history by keeping a record seventh consecutive clean sheet, and the Chilean made a vital save early on to prevent Alberto Bueno from giving Rayo the lead after nine minutes, diving across goal to tip the forward's driven shot around the post. Rayo have now failed to score in each of their four home games against Barcelona since returning to the top flight in 2011. This may have not been the most convincing of performances from the Catalans, but it will go some way to bandaging the wounds from their 3-2 Champions League defeat at Paris St Germain last week. Although the hosts made a strong start, Barca were also pushing for an early goal, which they nearly found as Neymar's lofted ball played in Messi, but Tono was quick off his line and got in the way of the Argentinian's shot. The goalkeeper showed quick reactions again later on in the half, swiping the ball away from Neymar's feet. Messi thought he had broken the deadlock after half an hour but looked across to see the linesman's flag up. The Argentina international would not be discouraged by the assistant however and five minutes later controlled a long ball by Gerard Pique in the area and lifted it over Tono to score the opener. After waiting 35 minutes to find the first goal, Barca needed just another 60 seconds to score again. Munir controlled a long ball and held off challenges from two Rayo players before slipping the ball into the path of Neymar, who took one touch before stroking the ball into the far corner. Munir then squandered a chance to add a third, selfishly going alone when he had Neymar to his left, and lost control of the ball as he tried to take it around Tono. Rayo made things harder for themselves a quarter of an hour into the second half when Morcillo was sent off for a second bookable offence but Barca could not extend their advantage. Messi was particularly wasteful in the second half, missing two great chances after fine work down the left-hand side by Jeremy Mathieu, who was playing at left-back for the first time this season. Aquino was then sent off for a late challenge on Pedro but there was little time left for Barca to take advantage.