Los Blancos were in need of a response, having been jeered off by their own fans following the midweek 3-0 Champions League defeat by Spartak Moscow.
Karim Benzema’s early strike, the France forward later going off with an ankle problem, was enough to secure victory which put Real Madrid third in the table and closed the gap on Atletico Madrid and Barcelona to two points.
Relegation-battlers Rayo, though, could have snatched a dramatic equaliser in stoppage time when Thibaut Courtois was forced into a superb double save.
Nevertheless, Real can now head off to the Club World Cup campaign in the UAE in positive mood as they prepare for Wednesday’s semi-final against Japanese side Kashima Antlers.
“I’m satisfied, we put in a very good first-half performance. We dominated the ball, made the most of the space, created chances and pressed very well,” Solari said.
“We should have gone in with a bigger lead at the break, but that’s football, when you’re not clinical you know you’ll have to dig in at some point.”
Solari added at a press conference: “The pace dropped in the second half, but we didn’t give them a sniff until the final minute and Courtois did brilliantly.
“When you don’t kill the game off, these things will happen. I’d be more concerned if we weren’t creating the chances.”
Solari confirmed both Benzema and Marco Asensio, who picked up a thigh problem, would be assessed on the trip to Abu Dhabi.
“We’ll have to see, we haven’t had a chance to have a look,” the Real Madrid coach said.
Isco was an unused substitute, left warming the bench, but Solari played down suggestions of a rift with the midfielder.
“What I’m interested in is that all of the players are happy and committed. That’s what we all work towards, so that they’re all available,” the Real Madrid coach said.
“I try to get things right when I name my squads, line-ups and with my substitutions. I’m sure I make mistakes, but it’s all part of my job.”
Solari was happy to send the home fans, who will not see another match at the Bernabeu until January, happy heading into the Christmas break.
“I loved the way the supporters got behind us right throughout the whole game, we’re delighted with them. We wanted their backing and they backed us from start to finish and we gave them reason to with our play,” he said.
“It’s normal that there was that vibe after the chance that Rayo had right at the death.
“We’re happy to have topped our Champions League group, progressed in the Copa de Rey and to have cut the lead at the top of LaLiga.”
Rayo coach Michel felt his side could have taken something from the match.
He said: “In the second half, with the change of system, we were more comfortable.
“I’m satisfied, but we have a lot of room for improvement, although the performance of the team is there.”
Karim Benzema scored the only goal of the game as Real Madrid secured a narrow 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.
The Frenchman latched on to a fine pass from Lucas Vazquez to fire home after initially spraying the ball out to the winger.
The La Liga victory at the Santiago Bernabeu took the hosts to within two points of city rivals Atletico Madrid.
Vallecano only threatened Madrid’s goal at the death but Santiago Solari’s side were able to see out the win.
Here, we analyse Vazquez’s performance.
Shots – 1
Shots on target – 0
Key passes – 2
Passes – 65
Pass accuracy – 89.2%
Tackles – 4
Touches – 98
Unsuccessful touches – 3
Vazquez was afforded a start on the right flank following some encouraging performances and didn’t disappoint. He was Madrid’s go-to option every time they were stifled through the middle.
Benzema pinged the ball out to him and darted into the box while Spaniard shuffled inside, onto his weaker foot before slipping a delicate pass through for the striker who scored with a strike on the swivel.
Vazquez’s work-rate was another plus as he tracked back superbly, making four tackles and one interception.
Positioning – Vazquez is unlike any winger at Madrid. He’s more traditional in his positioning, hugging the touchline and generating width. That helps stretch the opposition’s defence and creates more space for the other attackers. The diagonal ball into him was a switch Madrid used often in this game.
Creativity – The Spaniard had the vision to thread a through ball into Benzema’s path inside the box for the goal. He also played a part in creating the chance for Toni Kroos, whose effort crashed off the post.
Holding the ball – Vazquez lost possession on a number of occasions when he needed to be stronger. He was fouled six times but was legally dispossessed twice while some poor touches saw the ball get away from him on five occasions.
Delivery – Despite proving to be a great outlet for his side on the right flank, he couldn’t capitalise on the space he was being afforded as none of his five crosses found a team-mate.
It wasn’t a breathtaking performance but Vazquez’s defensive work made Madrid’s right side more stable while he certainly offers his team something different going forward. His mere presence on the right flank is a tactical tool in itself and one he makes even more useful with his clever play in the final third.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
Real Madrid put the Champions League loss to CSKA Moscow behind them with a hard-earned 1-0 derby win over Rayo Vallecano at the Bernabeu.
Santiago Solari and his side had been jeered off after a 3-0 home defeat by the Russians in midweek, but produced the required result against their local rivals.
An early goal from Karim Benzema, who later went off injured, proved enough for victory, which moved Los Blancos up to third in the LaLiga table, two points off the top.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, though, had to make a smart double save in stoppage time to deny Rayo, who remain second bottom, a dramatic equaliser.
Los Blancos midfielder Luka Modric was presented with the Ballon D’Or before kick-off, with the home side soon starting to dominate possession when the action got under way.
Real went in front with their first decent opening after 13 minutes.
The ball was knocked out to Lucas Vazquez wide on the right, and he glided towards the edge of the penalty area before playing in Benzema, who turned to coolly slot into the far corner.
Rayo almost swiftly got themselves back on level terms when centre-back Emiliano Velazquez sent his header wide from a corner.
Rayo goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski then had to be alert as Marco Asensio got in down the left and forced the Macedonia international into a smart save with his legs.
Vazquez saw a goalbound volley cleared off the line before Benzema’s cross into a crowded six yard box was hacked away.
With 35 minutes gone Real Madrid, missing Gareth Bale through injury, went close to a second when a 20-yard strike from Toni Kroos rattled back of the post.
The hosts had some defending to do as the interval approached from a Rayo free-kick out on the left, but Adrian Embarba clipped the angled delivery high and wide.
Rayo regrouped for the start of the second half, but could have fallen further behind after 51 minutes.
Modric turned Alejandro Galvez at the edge of the penalty area and picked out Asensio, whose effort was saved by Dimitrievski.
In the 65th minute, Real had a second goal ruled out after Sergio Ramos headed in a cross from Kroos, but the captain had strayed offside.
Rayo substitute Bebe forced Courtois into action with a long-range swerving effort which the Belgium goalkeeper punched away.
With 15 minutes left Modric, yet to score this season, dragged his shot wide after a break from midfield.
Benzema hobbled off with what looked like a shin injury, as promising 18-year-old forward Vinicius Junior was given a chance to impress for the closing stages.
The Brazilian shot wide with a late chance, before Real were forced into some desperate defending during stoppage time.
Courtois saved from an acrobatic effort by substitute Alex Alegria and also pushed away Velazquez’s follow-up.
Real now head off to the Club World Cup campaign in the United Arab Emirates.