Real Madrid heaped the pressure on league
leaders Barcelona when Ronaldo helped himself to a classy double in a
2-0 win at Levante in the Primera Liga on Sunday.
The Brazilian grabbed his first when he smashed in from six metres out
shortly before the break and took his total for the season to 15 when he
scored a superb solo effort late in the second.
Real also had keeper Iker Casillas to thank for a victory that left them
three points behind Barca, who host Getafe in Sunday's late game.
Earlier Villarreal dropped their first points at home in nine matches
when they were held to a 0-0 draw by fellow high-flyers Real Betis.
The result left Villarreal fourth in the table, level on 52 points with
Sevilla but with a game in hand. The Andalucians lost 1-0 at home to
Osasuna on Saturday but are third by virtue of their better head-to-head
Real, who cut Barcelona's lead at the top of the table to six points
with their 4-2 win over their arch-rivals at the Bernabeu last weekend,
were given a tough time of it by Levante in the opening minutes.
Former Real Madrid midfielder Alberto Rivera was denied an early goal by
a spectacular one-handed save from Casillas when his shot ballooned off
a defender towards the top corner.
Real did not manage to create a chance until the 24th minute when
Michael Owen forced a fine full-stretch save from keeper Juan Luis Mora
with a sharp shot after latching on to a pass from England colleague
Although Levante put together some neat passing moves in the centre of
midfield, Real needed just one more opportunity to snatch the lead.
Full back Michel Salgado burst down the right wing, cut inside to the
area and fired in a cross to Ronaldo who pulled away from his marker
before swinging a firm right-foot shot past Mora.
Casillas then produced a sharp block to stop a fierce drive from
defender Pablo Pinillos and then made a brilliant recovery to get his
hand to a goal-bound shot from Vladimir Manchev after the Bulgarian
striker had appeared to have skipped round him at the near post.
Levante had several more scoring chances midway through the second half
but it was Ronaldo who put an end to any hopes of a comeback when he
struck again seven minutes from time.
Latching on to a first-time pass from substitute Luis Figo, the
Brazilian charged down the centre of the pitch, outpaced defender Jesule,
swerved past Mora and guided the ball into the empty net.
At the other end of the table, basement club Numancia were left
teetering on the brink of relegation after a crushing 4-1 defeat at Real