Ronaldo treble spurs Real turnaround
Cristiano Ronaldo struck a brilliant hat-trick as Real Madrid moved ten points clear at the La Liga summit with an emphatic 4-2 come-from-behind victory over ten-man Levante.
Jose Mourinho's men took full advantage of Barcelona's defeat at Osasuna last night to move into a commanding position in the title race. Gustavo Cabral headed Levante into a surprise early lead, but the 43rd-minute dismissal of Vicente Iborra, who picked up a second booking for handling in the area, turned the game in the hosts' favour.
Ronaldo opened his account from the resulting spot-kick before adding another five minutes into the second half and completing his treble with a wonderful long-range effort on 57 minutes. Arouna Kone pulled it back to 3-2 with a header after 63 minutes. but Madrid restored their two-goal cushion when Karim Benzema curled home an exquisite fourth.
Coming into tonight's match Levante could claim to be the only team other than Barcelona to have inflicted defeat on Mourinho's men this season, and arrived looking to do an unlikely double against the leaders. And with just five minutes on the clock the visitors stunned the Bernabeu with the opening goal.
The breakthrough came from a set-piece after Sergio Ramos fouled El Zhar. When Francisco Farinos hit over a dangerous free-kick, Ramos was again involved as his attempted header clear fell perfectly for Cabral, who jumped with split-second timing to nod powerfully home.
Minutes later Benzema had a goal chalked off for offside. Levante looked like reaching the break with their lead intact as the visitors stifled the hosts' threat thereafter, but that changed two minutes from the break when they were reduced to ten men when Iborra handled in the area.
Iborra had already been booked for a foul on Benzema in the 37th minute, so when he handled the ball as he attempted to head clear in the area, the referee issued a second yellow. Ronaldo stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick, and duly fired high to the goalkeeper's left.
Ronaldo hits a hat-trickThe second half was always going to be a long one for Levante with a man down and so it proved to be as Mourinho's men moved seamlessly through the gears. Ronaldo's second arrived on 50 minutes when Higuain crossed from the right and the Portuguese forward rose amid two static defenders to head home.
And the dynamic forward completed his treble seven minutes later with a strike that was as spectacular as his first two had been routine, picking the ball up on the left and cutting inside before unleashing a dipping 30-yard drive beyond the helpless Gustavo Munua.
Gonzalo Higuain then had a goal ruled out for offside on the hour as Madrid poured forward, but their progress was checked against the run of play on 63 minutes when Oscar Serrano crossed for Kone to head home from close range to reduce the arrears.
But the visiting side's hopes were extinguished just three minutes later when Ronaldo played in Benzema, who cut inside his marker and curled a delightful effort inside the far post. Ronaldo, Benzema and Mezut Ozil all missed gilt-edged chances to add to the scoring in what time remained, but the Levante goal was spared further punishment.