A Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Real Madrid moved three points clear at the top of La Liga thanks to a 3-0 win over Levante at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Ronaldo scored one and set up Marcelo for another as he moved to within three goals of Real Madrid legend Ferenc Puskas in the club's all-time goalscorer charts.
|Real Madrid All-Time Top Goalscorers|
|2.||Alfredo di Stefano||Argentina/Spain||305|
Ronaldo faced a stern test in the Levante goal in the shape of Keylor Navas, arguably La Liga's form goalkeeper. The Costa Rican had kept 11 clean sheets in 26 games for Les Granotes, who had not been beaten for eight matches, as per ESPNFC.com.
Navas has come in for interest from both Everton and Liverpool in recent weeks, as reported by the Mirror's Alan Nixon. What finer test, then, for the 27-year-old than facing the Ballon d'Or winner?
And Navas underlined his form as he acrobatically palmed away a placed Ronaldo volley within the first five minutes.
Only five minutes later Ronaldo powered home a header from an Angel di Maria corner and gave Los Blancos a 1-0 lead. The Portuguese rose above the Levante attack, seemingly hanging in the air before planting a header low into Navas' corner.
The Costa Rican got his fingertips to the ball, but it was not enough to deny Ronaldo his 38th of the campaign.
Opta Jose tweeted this foreboding statistic about Ronaldo's remarkable record against Levante:
Three minutes after the restart, Ronaldo turned provider, skipping past two Levante challenges to lay off an exquisite through pass for Marcelo. The Brazilian dropped a shoulder and planted the ball into Navas' net for his first goal in two years.
Despite a goal and an assist, this was not a vintage display from Ronaldo, who consistently proved a menace to the Levante defence, but had few golden opportunities to add to his tally.
Madrid should have scored through Karim Benzema twice, the Frenchman being denied by the post and the excellent Navas.
Their dominance was going some way to justifying Zinedine Zidane's talk that Real Madrid can secure the treble this season, per El Confidencial via SkySports.
Of course you should discuss the possibility of winning the treble. When you play at Real Madrid you know what the objectives are. We are in three competitions and we are there.
We must go on, knowing that it is very difficult because there are very good teams. If you remain focused and working well, we can achieve important things.
You know what's the secret? The players. We also have a very good coach who leads the group.
Ronaldo continued to be at the heart of the action as he was chopped down from behind by David Navarro for a deserved red. The Portuguese's reaction was somewhat theatrical, but there could be no argument that the Spaniard deserved to be dismissed for the clumsy challenge.
There was little sympathy for Navarrio on Twitter, as Spanish football journalist Phil Kitromilides summed up:
Ronaldo continued to be at the heart of Madrid's dangerous moves, as he drew in two Levante defenders before whipping in a cross that Benzema could not quite meet. The Frenchman did everything but score in this one-sided affair, hitting the woodwork twice but consistently looking dangerous.
It was from the left flank that Madrid's third came, as a newly-confident Marcelo had his cross knocked into the net by Levante defender Nikos Karabelas.
There would be one last chance for Ronaldo to add to his tally as the excellent Marcelo whipped in a teasing cross. Ronaldo once again powered a header, but this time it bounced off the cross bar onto the line and away.
The man from Madeira would have to settle for just the one goal Sunday, which leaves him on 24 for the season, with seven assists.
The win also sent stark warning to Madrid's title rivals, Barcelona and Atletico, that Carlo Ancelotti's side stand as favourites for the La Liga crown.
Ronaldo will have the chance to add to his tally when Madrid travel to Malaga on Saturday. They welcome Schalke to Madrid three days later in the return leg of the 6-1 humiliation Los Blancos dished out to the German side in the Champions League second round.