Real Madrid roared back to the top of La Liga with a comfortable 3-0 victory over ten-men Levante at the Bernabeu.
Strikes from Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo were supplemented by an own goal from Nikos Karabelas to set up an extremely convincing win, which was only marred by a worrying looking injury to defender Dani Carvajal in the final stages. The right-back collapsed in agony off the ball, leaving Los Blancos with an anxious wait to discover the severity of the problem – especially concerning with Alvaro Arbeloa currently out with a knee injury.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team are now four points clear of Barcelona and three clear of Atletico, and have amassed a four-month, 29-game unbeaten run to propel them into contention for all major honours.
Unsurprisingly, they started with great confidence and soon started to create chances against a Levante team weakened by three suspensions.
Ronaldo had the game’s first effort on goal with a cushioned volley which demanded a diving save from Keilor Navas, but the visiting keeper was unable to repel Ronaldo’s powerful 12-yard header from Angel Di Maria’s left-wing corner.
Di Maria came close to adding a second after bursting into the box and shooting low, but Navas was quickly off his line to save.
The visiting team were struggling to establish any attacking momentum, only mustering a speculative long-range volley from Sergio Pinto as a Madrid back four, marshalled by Sergio Ramos, enjoyed an extremely comfortable opening period.
Navas was again called into action when Karim Benzema raced onto a pass from Luka Modric, with the Levante keeper diving bravely at Benzema’s feet to prevent a certain goal.
Di Maria fired a long-range effort wide as Madrid continued to dominate, and they came within inches of adding a second shortly before the interval when Marcelo’s cross found Benzema, whose header was kept out by the left upright.
The long-anticipated second goal finally arrived in the early stages of the second half, with Marcelo bounding down the left to receive a pass from Ronaldo before cutting inside onto his right foot and curling a beautiful strike into the far corner.
Benzema’s bright, all-round performance was worthy of a goal and the in-form French striker came close with a curling strike from the edge of the box which produced an acrobatic stop from the busy Navas.
The visitors were then reduced to ten men with the dismissal of defender David Navarro, who was somewhat harshly shown a straight red for a silly lunge from behind on Ronaldo.
That decision completely quashed any remaining possibility of a Levante comeback, and the only remaining question was by how many the hosts would win.
Marcelo could have added a second after a slick move involving Ronaldo and Benzema, but on this occasion the Brazilian fired over the bar.
There was more than a hint of comedy to Madrid’s third goal, which arrived when Marcelo’s deep cross was smashed into his own net by Greek defender Nikos Karabelas with such ferocity it almost looked intentional.
Gareth Bale skidded a low 20- yard effort narrowly wide and Ronaldo saw his header from Marcelo’s cross crash against the underside of the crossbar as Madrid searched for their fourth, but Carvajal’s injury provided a sour note to an otherwise exemplary evening.