Madrid // Cristiano Ronaldo became Real Madrid’s all-time leading scorer as his side moved to the top of the Primera Liga thanks to a 3-0 win over Levante on Saturday.
Ronaldo struck his 324th goal for the Spanish giants in just his 310th game with a fine shot from outside the area after he had set up Marcelo to open the scoring for the hosts.
Jese Rodriguez added a third nine minutes from time.
A first victory in three league games moves Madrid two points clear of Villarreal at the top, but champions Barcelona can move level with Real should they beat Rayo Vallecano at home later on Saturday.
Madrid had to name a bench with seven academy graduates due to the absence of Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema through injury and coach Rafael Benitez was happy to secure a comfortable win in the circumstances.
“We had a bit of a handicap and to win 3-0 with some very good phases of the game for me is very positive,” said the former Liverpool manager.
The scale of Ronaldo’s latest record is exemplified by the fact he has played 431 fewer games for Madrid than previous record holder and club legend Raul, who earlier this week announced his decision to retire from football next month after a brief stint with the New York Cosmos.
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Ronaldo paraded his record fourth golden boot for being the top scorer in Europe last season to an adoring crowd before kick-off.
However, after disappointing performances in draws against Malaga and Atletico Madrid before the international break, the Bernabeu faithful quickly became restless after another slow start from their side.
Levante have now won just one of their opening eight league matches, but had the first opening of the game when Roger forced Keylor Navas into a smart save against his old club at the near post.
Ronaldo was frustrated moments later when the referee waved play on after he appeared to be barged in the back by Simao Mate Junior inside the area.
Gareth Bale was partnering the Portuguese in attack for the first time in over a month, but the Welshman failed to make an impact before being substituted at half-time as he headed over with his best chance from Toni Kroos’s corner.
The opener arrived on 27 minutes when Levante needlessly gifted possession to Madrid inside their own half and a neat one-two between Marcelo and Ronaldo allowed the Real captain in the absence of the injured Sergio Ramos to fire home.
Levante nearly struck back immediately, but Navas’s brilliant start to the season continued as he flew to his left to somehow claw Deyverson’s powerful header to safety.
And within seconds Levante were punished for again giving the ball away as Kroos squared for Ronaldo to thunder home his 11th goal of the season.
Madrid briefly threatened to run riot as Ronaldo should have turned home Bale’s cut-back.
However, after Bale had been replaced by Lucas Vazquez at half-time to keep him fresh for Wednesday’s trip to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, another flat second-half display followed from Benitez’s men.
Navas again had to rescue his side with a smart stop from Nabil Ghilas and Nacho made a remarkable block to prevent Deyverson pulling a goal back.
Madrid’s greater firepower proved the difference once more, though, as substitute Jese rounded off the scoring as he ghosted past Simao and smashed the ball high past the helpless Ruben Martinez.
Real Madrid’s leading scorers.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (2009-present): 324 goals in 310 official matches over seven seasons. Titles with Real: 7
2. Raul Gonzalez (1994-2010): 323 goals in 741 matches over 16 seasons. Titles: 16
3. Alfredo Di Stefano (1953-1964): 308 goals in 396 matches over 11 seasons. Titles: 17
4. Carlos Alonso, known as Santillana (1971-1988): 290 goals in 645 matches over 17 seasons. Titles: 16
5. Ferenc Puskas (1958-1967): 242 goals in 262 matches over nine seasons. Titles: 10
6. Hugo Sanchez (1985-1992): 208 goals in 282 matches over seven seasons. Titles: 10
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