A year ago Rayo Vallecano de Madrid travelled to Arsenal LFC in the UEFA Women's Champions League round of 16 leading 2-0 and ended up being eliminated 4-3 on aggregate after a last-gasp goal, so they are understandably cautious as they visit the Gunners on Wednesday with scores level.
A 31st-minute goal from captain Natalia last week and a fine display of keeping from Alicia ensured that Rayo Vallecano held Arsenal 1-1 in the first leg. However, Rayo coach José Ramón Hernández, whose side must score at Meadow Park, knows it will be tough as a team who have never played a European quarter-final take on opponents yet to miss out on that stage in nine previous entries.
Arsenal are still the favourites and it's definitely going to be difficult but we must try to play," he said. "Despite realising just how difficult the task in hand will be, we know this is a knockout game and it's still up for grabs. We are playing at a very tricky venue but where there is life there is hope."
Hernández's opposite number Laura Harvey, meanwhile, is disappointed not to be holding a lead. "We hope to qualify when we play at home in the second leg," the Arsenal manager said. "
We had chances to score more goals in Spain but we didn't manage to do so and that can cost you at this level."
What could cost Rayo is any repeat of what happened at the Ciudad Deportiva in last Thursday's first leg, when they went behind to a goal from Kim Little after just three minutes. They will not only hope to avoid that but also wish that Alicia has another inspired afternoon. "Obviously we drew that one but we must go for the win on Wednesday," the goalkeeper said. "We are going there with respect for our opponents but not afraid to take to the pitch in search of a victory."
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