MADRID Real Madrid took full advantage of Barcelona's shock defeat at Real Valladolid with a 3-0 home win over 10-man Levante on Sunday that put Carlo Ancelotti's in-form side three points clear at the top of La Liga.
Cristiano Ronaldo, the leading scorer in Spain this season, took his tally to 24 league goals when he headed the opener from Angel Di Maria's corner in the 11th minute and Marcelo added a second from Ronaldo's assist four minutes after the break.
David Navarro was harshly shown a straight red card in the 64th minute for an innocuous-looking tackle on Ronaldo and fellow Levante defender Nikos Karampelas put the ball into his own net nine minutes from time.
Ronaldo, who became Portugal's leading scorer with a double against Cameroon in Wednesday's 5-1 friendly victory, came close to a second in the 90th minute when he headed against the underside of the crossbar and Gareth Bale whistled a low shot just past the post in added time.
"I don't think it was a perfect game but we were close," Marcelo told Canal Plus television.
"We were a bit weaker in the first half than the second but the important thing was that we didn't concede any goals and in that respect we have improved a lot," added the Brazil international.
"We couldn't afford to stumble today and of course it's better when the others lose but we are focusing on ourselves."
Real, unbeaten in 29 matches in all competitions, have 67 points with 11 matches left and Atletico Madrid are three behind in second position after winning 2-0 at Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Champions Barca, who visit Real for the 'Clasico' in two weeks' time, turned in one of their worst performances of the campaign on Saturday at relegation-haunted Valladolid and slipped to third on 63 points.
Real are well placed in all three competitions they are in and a treble of Champions League, La Liga and King's Cup, which would be a first for the world's richest club, is within reach.
They have a 6-1 lead over Schalke 04 ahead of their last-16 second leg in Europe's elite club competition on March 18 and meet Barca in the King's Cup final in Valencia on April 16.
"The team played well from the first minute to the last, with confidence and efficiency," Ancelotti told a news conference.
"We are in a good position in all the competitions," added the Italian who is in his first season in charge after taking over from Jose Mourinho. "The risk is to think too much because each game could be the most important of the season.
"The only thing I will say is Madrid are obliged to fight for the three titles."
Fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao (51 points) missed a chance to open a nine-point lead over Villarreal (44) in fifth when the Basque side drew 1-1 at Valencia.
Paco Alcacer put eighth-placed Valencia (36) ahead in the 23rd minute and Aritz Aduriz leveled from the penalty spot eight minutes into the second half.
Sevilla (41), in seventh, boosted their chances of qualifying for Europe with a 3-1 win at Almeria while ninth-placed Espanyol (36) also stayed in the hunt with a 3-1 triumph at home to Elche.
(Editing by Ed Osmond and Tony Jimenez)