Real Madrid had to come from behind against Levante before their star substitutes went on a late scoring blitz to beat Levante 5-1 at the Bernabeu.
On a poor run of form before last week’s victory over Sevilla, Levante stunned Madrid by taking the lead just past the half-hour mark through Michel. Madrid, though, quickly responded and within 10 minutes had taken the lead with goals from Higuain and a Kaka penalty. In the final minutes Madrid added a perhaps harshly emphatic feel to the scoreline courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo and a double from fellow-substitute Mesut Ozil.
As expected, Jose Mourinho made a number of changes to the Madrid side that beat Galatasaray 3-0 in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal in midweek. Ronaldo started on the bench, as did Iker Casillas, despite returning to fitness after a broken thumb.
Levante lacked the quality to make Madrid pay for their rotation, though, as the home side went onto dominate after going behind to stay ahead of Atletico Madrid in La Liga and, temporarily at least, close the gap on Barcelona at the top to 10 points.
Kaka continued his recent impressive performances in the league by starting brightly and the Brazilian forced a good early save from Gustavo Munua with a left-footed effort.
But it was the visitors that struck first courtesy of a classic counter attack. Michel broke toward the edge of the box before feeding the ball to the right for Pedro Rios and then receiving the instant pull back prior to taking a touch and hitting a low shot that struck Pepe on its way past Diego Lopez.
The goal inspired Madrid into action and within five minutes they were level in spectacular circumstances. Xabi Alonso played his part with a fine cross in toward Higuain but, with the ball behind him, there was still plenty to do, yet the Argentinean executed a stunning volley that soared into the top corner of the net.
With Levante given little time to catch their breath, just two minutes later Madrid won a penalty to take the lead. Kaka’s cross deflected onto the outstretched arm of Christian Lell in the area and the referee had little hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Kaka took the responsibility and calmly sent Munua the wrong way.
Ronaldo came on at the break to give Madrid more impetus going forward as he, Benzema and Higuain interchanged positions to good effect. However, a combination of profligate finishing from Ronaldo and Benzema and good goalkeeping from Munua kept the scores unchanged until late on.
Then, with six minutes remaining, Real began to add a heavy dose of icing to the victory. First, Higuain did superbly to pull the ball back from the byline on the left and, 12 yards out, Ronaldo incredibly found himself in enough space to control the ball before unleashing a decisive volley into the bottom right-hand corner.
Three minutes later, Madrid’s frightening trio of substitutes combined to make it 4-1. Angel di Maria fed in Ronaldo down the left and the Portuguese forward slid the ball across goal for Ozil to slide a simple finish into the net.
It was a similar scenario for the fifth and final goal when Di Maria and Ozil exchanged passes before the German coolly finished to add style to the win.