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Ronaldo on target as Real reclaim sole lead Sevilla, Espanyol surge

MADRID, March 9, (Agencies): Real Madrid returned to the top of La Liga with a comfortable 3-0 win over Levante at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with his 38th goal of the season when he headed Angel di Maria’s corner low past Keylor Navas after just 11 minutes. Navas then kept his side in the game with a string of fine saves, but there was nothing the Costa Rican could do when Ronaldo teed up Marcelo to curl in the second four minutes after half-time. Levante were reduced to 10 men on 63 minutes when David Navarro was shown a straight red card for a foul on Ronaldo. And the visitors’ miserable evening was summed up when Nikos Karabelas’ scored a spectacular own goal nine minutes from time to make it 3-0. Victory means Real now lead second-placed Atletico Madrid by three points with Barcelona a further point back in third.

Seemingly buoyed by Barca’s latest setback in losing to lowly Valladolid on Saturday, Real started very brightly and Ronaldo forced Navas into his first stop after five minutes with a nicely cushioned volley that the ‘keeper collected at the second attempt. The Portuguese wasn’t to be denied six minutes later, though, as he rose highest to meet Di Maria’s cross and power his header low into the corner. Navas then had to be quick off his line to smother efforts from Di Maria and Karim Benzema as Madrid continued to press. The pick of the saves from the Levante goalkeeper came in first-half stoppage time as he leapt to his right to turn Benzema’s header from close range onto the post. Meanwhile, Sevilla routed Almeria 3-1 on the road to earn its third consecutive victory in the Spanish league on Sunday, while Espanyol also eased to a 3-1 home win over Elche. The victories left Sevilla and Espanyol in seventh and eighth place respectively — and in the race for a Europa league berth.

Striker Carlos Bacca scored his 11th league goal of the season to put Sevilla ahead at Juegos Mediterraneos Stadium in the 31st. Daniel Carrico was left unmarked to sweep in a corner kick headed on in the 51st, and Kevin Gameiro tapped in a pass from Ivan Rakitic in the 77th. Aleix Vidal finished off a flowing team buildup for Almeria’s consolation goal in the 85th. Espanyol forward Simao Sabrosa set up his team’s first two goals. David Lopez headed in Simao’s corner to open the scoring two minutes in, and Sabrosa picked out Diego Colotto with a free kick to make it 2-0 in the 21st. Luis “Pizzi” Afonso’s deflected shot went in off a defender and the crossbar in the 58th to ensure Elche stayed winless in eight consecutive away games. Espanyol fullback Juan Fuentes scored an own goal in the 88th. Almeria stayed in the relegation zone, with Elche clinging to safety by three points.

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