Cristiano Ronaldo scores twice as Real Madrid put five past Levante
Cristiano Ronaldo was at the double as Real Madrid warmed up for next week's clasico clash with Barcelona by putting five goals past hapless Levante in Valencia on Saturday afternoon.
The ruthless Portugal forward broke the deadlock from the penalty spot and then scored a fine solo effort to make it 15 league goals in seven games for the season, with Javier Hernandez, James Rodriguez and Isco also on the scoresheet.
With the clasico lurking just around the corner, Madrid are finding form just at the right time -- they have now scored at least five goals in four of their last five matches.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti made three changes to the team that thrashed Athletic Bilbao before the international break: Gareth Bale was left out of the starting lineup for the first time this season and replaced by Isco; flu victim Karim Benzema was replaced by Hernandez, and Sergio Ramos was rested in favour of Nacho.
As expected, the visitors did most of the attacking in the first half -- Ronaldo flashed two early shots wide of either post but did not have to wait long to score his first of the game.
Hernandez was sent tumbling in the area by a sliding tackle from Juanfran, and the former Manchester United man stuck the penalty into the top corner, although goalkeeper Diego Marino was a whisker away from getting a hand to it.
While Madrid were dominant in the first half, it was by no means one-way traffic and Victor Camarasa very nearly equalised with a header from a corner, but saw the ball cleared off the line by Luka Modric.
The Croatia international nearly doubled Madrid's advantage before the interval, but saw his long-distance effort tipped over the bar by Marino.
It would not be long before Madrid did extend their lead, though. Rodriguez curled a cross back into the area following a corner and Hernandez rose to head past Marino and score his third goal since joining Madrid from Manchester United.
Isco was denied a goal early in the second period by a low save, but the goalkeeper was powerless to stop Ronaldo's second goal. The Primera Division top scorer received the ball on the left-hand side of the area and twisted his way past two defenders before powering the ball into the net.
But that emphatic strike was soon bettered by Rodriguez, who controlled a finely weighted pass by Toni Kroos on his chest and then executed a sideways volley into the bottom corner.
Modric should have hit a fifth when his initial shot was parried back into his path by Marino, but the former Tottenham midfielder somehow sent the rebound wide of the near post.
So it was left to Isco to provide goal number five. The midfielder received the ball from Rodriguez and then rushed into the area to smash into the top corner and round off yet another blistering attacking display by Madrid.