Real Madrid moved three points clear atop La Liga with a 3-0 victory at home to Levante on Sunday at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
Cristiano Ronaldo gave Real an early lead with his league-leading 24th goal of the season. Marcelo made it 2-0 with a curling finish just after half-time, and Levante's Nikos Karabelas put the ball into his own net nine minutes from time to seal the result.
Levante finished the match with 10 men after David Navarro received a straight red card in the second half.
With the win, Real returned to first place after Atletico Madrid's victory at Celta Vigo on Saturday briefly displaced them. Real hold a three-point lead over their city rivals, and a four-point lead over Barcelona, who lost at Valladolid this weekend.
Levante are 10th with 36 points.
"We had the same intensity and concentration (as) in the last few games," manager Carlo Ancelotti told RealMadrid.com. "We played well from the first minute til the last; very efficient and with security at the back. The match was very good."
Up next for Carlo Ancelotti's side in La Liga is a trip to Malaga, where Real will look to extend their 17-match unbeaten league run on Saturday. The following Sunday will see Barcelona visit the Bernabeu in what could be a decisive match in the title race.
Meanwhile, Real remain alive in the hunt for silverware on two more fronts. The Blancos lead Schalke 6-1 after the first leg of the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie, and they will play Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final on April 19.
Real wasted little time against Levante, breaking the deadlock in the 11th minute via a familiar source. Angel Di Maria curled in a corner from the left, and Ronaldo towered over the penalty spot to power his header into the bottom corner for his 38th goal this season in all competitions.
The hosts continued to attack throughout the first half, but a second goal proved elusive with Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas in top form.
In the 14th minute, Gareth Bale cut inside from the left before shooting just wide of the post. Two minutes later, Navas raced off his line to stop Di Maria's shot from a tight angle.
Bale's angled pass freed Karim Benzema on the right in the 22nd minute, but Navas again came off his line alertly to smother. Navas made his best save yet in stoppage time, tipping Benzema's header onto the post to maintain the 1-0 scoreline heading into half-time.
Shortly after the break, however, Navas couldn't stop Real from doubling their lead.
Picking up possession from Ronaldo's pass on the left, Marcelo cut inside before creating space for himself with a clever dummy. With the ball on his right foot, Marcelo curled a superb finish past Navas and into the net at the far post.
Leading 2-0, the hosts were comfortable if not satisfied. Benzema came close to scoring Real's third with a curling shot in the 57th minute, but Navas stretched to tip the ball away with another good save.
Levante went down to 10 men in the 64th minute, when Navarro drew a red card for a foul from behind on Ronaldo.
Marcelo nearly scored his second goal in the 66th minute, playing what initially appeared to be a cross just wide of the target. The defender then shot over the bar four minutes later.
Benzema headed off the bar from a set piece in the 72nd minute, and Navas saved Benzema's point-blank volley one minute later after Real Madrid worked a short corner. The rebound from the latter fell to Sergio Ramos, but Karabelas blocked his shot.
Real finally found their third goal in the 81st minute, though this time it came from an unlikely source. Marcelo crossed from the right, and with no white shirts lurking at the back post, Karabelas was under no pressure as he attempted to clear. But instead of clearing, the Levante back lashed the ball into his own net to make it 3-0.
There was still time for another chance in the 90th minute, as Marcelo picked out Ronaldo with a cross from the left. But Ronaldo's powerful header cannoned off the underside of the bar before bouncing on the line and away to safety.
In the closing seconds, Real's Dani Carvajal left the match on a stretcher after a slip off the ball.
Reaction to follow…
|Real Madrid Player Ratings vs. Levante|
|Angel Di Maria||6||6|
Real Madrid play at Malaga on Saturday in La Liga.
Levante host Celta Vigo the same day.