They were not able to leave a brilliant performance in the Bernabéu, but Ancelotti's men managed to get a very important victory in their last game before next week's decisive Clásico. The return of Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric increased the competitiveness of a team that had Gareth Bale as its most prominent star tonight, who secured the white victory with a brace in the first half.
Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Lucas Silva, Modric (Illarramendi), Isco (Jesé); Bale, Benzema (Chicharito Hernández), Ronaldo.
Levante: Diego Mariño; Iván López, David Navarro, Ramis, Toño; Camarasa, Simao, Xumetra (El Zhar), Morales (Rubén García); Barral, Kalu Uche (Víctor Casadesús).
The first half
After paying a tribute to the memory of Antonio Betancort with an emotive minute of silence, Los Blancos started the game with great intensity, trying to get an early goal that would have helped them to forget the crisis they have been immersed in recently. Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe managed to shoot on Levante's goal before the tenth minute, but the goal did not arrive so early.
Los Blancos kept playing quite fluently, with a very prominent Luka Modric in the possession elaboration, who was well accompanied by Isco Alarcón and covered by Lucas Silva to be able to unleash his potential. Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema kept exchanging their positions making it extremely difficult for Levante's defenders to track them.
In the fifteenth minute, Karim Benzema managed to score after Levante's goalkeeper Mariño deflected a mid-distance shot by Luka Modric, but the referee was right to disallow the goal as the Frenchman was offside. However, Real Madrid got their advantage two minutes later, when Gareth Bale was able to score after another deflection from Mariño, this time after a bicycle-shot by Ronaldo. The Welshman showed his displeasure with the fans' whistles with his celebration.
Los Blancos' intensity was not diminished after the goal, and managed to create three more clear occasions before the thirtieth minute, but their accuracy was not the best tonight. These mistakes may have undermined their morale a little, and their game became less fluent for ten minutes, and the whistles were heard in the Bernabéu once again, although Levante were totally unable to cause any threat to Real Madrid's goal, today defended by Keylor Navas.
But shortly before the break, an isolate play served Real Madrid to decide the game: a combined action between Modric and Carvajal through Real Madrid's right wing ended with the ball at Ronaldo's feet on top of the box. Our commander shot, and the ball hit Bale's foot just enough to make Mariño unable to block it. Gareth Bale had finished his negative eight-game streak with a brace.
The second half
Perhaps they were just saving their energy for next week's game against FC Barcelona, but the truth is that our players' deployment in the second half was far poorer than that in the first half. The positive thing, however, is that our midfielders were still able to set the right tempo for the game to avoid all risks, and Real Madrid's advantage was never threatened. Karim Benzema had a great chance to score after a cross by Ronaldo with a beautiful back-heel shot that would have sure been a great candidate for the Puskas Award, but it hit the post and the Frenchman did not manage to put the ball in afterwards.
By the seventieth minute, Ancelotti subbed Isco off for Jesé, thus avoiding a possible yellow card that would have made the #23 miss the Clásico and, later on, Illarramendi and Chicharito took the spots of Modric and Benzema. A visibly frustrated Cristiano Ronaldo still had a couple of chances to score, but he left the Bernabéu with no prize tonight. Hopefully, he will have a chance to recoup next Sunday.