Real Madrid vs. Levante: 6 Things We Learned

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistMarch 9, 2014

Real Madrid vs. Levante: 6 Things We Learned

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    Too easy: Real won out 3-0 winners.
    Too easy: Real won out 3-0 winners.Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Real Madrid go back to the top of La Liga with their 3-0 victory over Levante at the Bernabeu on Sunday.

    Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with a powerful header, before Marcelo and an own goal rounded off their victory.

    Carlo Ancelotti will be pleased with his team's performance as Real Madrid continue to show why they are favourites to win the title this season.

    Here are six things we learned from the game.

Cristiano Ronaldo Is Amazing in the Air

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    Heads up: Cristiano Ronaldo nodded home the opener.
    Heads up: Cristiano Ronaldo nodded home the opener.Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Angel di Maria swung in what was no more than a decent corner, but Cristiano Ronaldo turned it into the game's opening goal.

    Few other players out there can jump like that; he seemed to hang in the air for several seconds.

    He put the power on the ball with a twist of that muscular neck too. When Ronaldo works out, it isn't just for vanity's sake.

    He is physically one of the greatest athletes on the planet, and when he can rise to head the ball like that, you can see why all that training is worth it.

Carlo Ancelotti Is Loyal to His Men

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    Keeping the faith: Carlo Ancelotti kept Lopez and Di Maria in.
    Keeping the faith: Carlo Ancelotti kept Lopez and Di Maria in.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    After last week's 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid, some Real supporters were hoping Ancelotti would make a couple of changes to the team.

    When Isco came on as a substitute in that game, it changed the momentum and helped Los Blancos to find their equaliser.

    Many thought Isco deserved to start the game in midfield ahead of Di Maria.

    Others wanted the manager to restore Iker Casillas to the first team ahead of Diego Lopez, who made an error in the derby. He let Gabi's long distance thunderbolt flash past him and could have done better.

    But Ancelotti kept the faith and went with Lopez and Di Maria on Sunday.

Keylor Navas Is a Top Stopper

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    Dynamic: Keylor Navas made several impressive saves.
    Dynamic: Keylor Navas made several impressive saves.Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Levante's Costa Rican goalkeeper is an excellent custodian.

    Before the game, only the La Liga top four (Atletico, Real, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao) had conceded fewer goals than Les Granotes.

    England, Italy and Uruguay may find themselves surprised by him at the World Cup, but they shouldn't be.

    He made an excellent early save from Cristiano Ronaldo, showing top reflexes.

    Navas was also alert to deny Di Maria when Madrid pushed for their second, and then he produced another superb stop to deny Karim Benzema on the stroke of half-time.

    In the second period, he denied the Frenchman at full stretch again, who had no chance with the goals.

Ammunition for Madrid Cynics

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    Predictable: Nobody was surprised by Ramos being booked.
    Predictable: Nobody was surprised by Ramos being booked.Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Diego Lopez landed on the back of Pedro Lopez Munoz, knocking him to the turf without getting near the ball.

    The referee didn't bat an eyelid, and it was one of a number of instances of penalties not being awarded when they should have been this season.

    Diego Costa was fouled in the box for Atletico last week, for instance, but nothing was given.

    David Navarro made an idiotic tackle on Ronaldo in the second half, but it was harsh to show him a straight red for it. 

    Although it was unlikely that Levante would come back from two down, the red card killed the game.

    And Sergio Ramos getting the booking, which keeps him out of the next game against Malaga but ready to play against Barcelona the following week, was the most predictable moment of the day. 

Raphael Varane May Have Knee Issues in the Future

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    Subbed: Raphael Varane took a knock to his knee.
    Subbed: Raphael Varane took a knock to his knee.Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

    Jose Mourinho hailed the centre-back as the best in the world earlier this week.

    He told (h/t Yahoo!), "I think Varane is the best central defender in the world. He is still young, but I think he's the best. Already, yes. I think he's the best defender."

    Although the Chelsea manager was exaggerating, Varane has plenty of potential.

    Hopefully he can fulfill it. After being sidelined because of a knee injury for much of the season, he was substituted on Sunday.

    Unfortunately, he took a hefty blow to the outside of his knee and had to be taken off.

    This may be seen as cynical, but opponents may target him there in the future, which could affect his progress.

Marcelo Is the Man for Madrid

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    Menace: Marcelo scored and created another.
    Menace: Marcelo scored and created another.Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Brazilian left-back Marcelo has sometimes received criticism.

    He does have some defensive deficiencies, but he has been working hard on them this season and is a better choice than Fabio Coentrao.

    Where he really excels is going forward. His goal was superbly taken, as he lashed into the far side of the goal after he cut inside.

    And it was his wicked cross that worried Nikos Karabelas enough to smash it into his own net with nobody else around him.

    Marcelo almost had another assist when he delivered a perfect ball to Ronaldo, but the forward headed it off the underside of the bar and out.