Los Blancos run riot in the second half as the away side struggle after going down to 10 men, and the clinical Portuguese proved pivotal in deciding the thrilling contest.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick has edged Real Madrid closer to the Primera Division title after his heroics helped the league leaders to a 4-2 victory over Levante, and opened up a 10-point gap over Barcelona at the top.
After weathering the Madrid storm with 11 men in the first half, Levante failed to do the same with 10 in the second half, as Ronaldo completed his hat-trick and Karim Benzema scored a fine effort, leaving Jose Mourinho’s side in a dominant position at the summit of La Liga.
Despite Madrid starting brighter than their opponents, it was the away side that surprisingly opened the scoring as Gustavo Cabral poked home from close range after Sergio Ramos had inadvertently flicked Francisco Farinos’ free kick into his path.
Mourinho’s men found their stride after going a goal behind, and began to pepper Gustavo Munua’s goal with efforts. Eventually, their perseverance paid off minutes before half time through a Ronaldo penalty as Iborra was given a second yellow card for handball inside the Levante box.
Madrid came racing out of the blocks in the second half, with Ronaldo scoring his second and third goals of the evening within 15 minutes of the restart.
Higuain did superbly to set up the Portuguese’s second goal, beating his man down the right before lifting a fantastic cross into the penalty area, that Ronaldo headed firmly past Munua to give his side a deserved lead.
The goal that completed his hat-trick, however, was the pick of the lot. He picked the ball up 35 yards from goal, carried it 10 yards, before unleashing an unstoppable dipping effort with his right foot that found the top right hand corner of Munua’s net.
That strike, while also Ronaldo’s 13th hat-trick in the white of Madrid, also had historical significance – it was the club’s 4000th La Liga goal inside the Santiago Bernabeu since its opening in December 1947.
Levante had a part to play in the contest too, however, and scored a surprise second to make it 3-2 when Arouna Kone rose highest above Sergio Ramos and Pepe to plant a header past Iker Casillas, after an enticing ball from the left by Oscar Serrano.
Just as the game seemed to settle down, Benzema got in on the act for the home side to effectively end the match as a contest.
Ronaldo collected possession on the edge of the Levante area, before rolling to the left to Benzema, who shifted his body from left to right before wrapping his foot round the ball and sending a fine effort into the far corner of the net.
Madrid went in search of a fifth as the game wore on, but were met by some resolute defending by Levante. However, they had did enough to ensure that the points remained in the capital, despite the best efforts of the visitors.
The win takes Los Merengues 10 points clear of second-placed Barcelona in La Liga and puts them firmly in control of the title race. Levante, meanwhile, remain in fourth place, despite not having won in the league since December 10.