Rafael Benitez praised Cristiano Ronaldo‘s leadership qualities after the striker helped an injury-ravaged Real Madrid to a 3-0 win over Levante to again write himself into the club’s history books.
Ronaldo scored the second goal at the Bernabeu to move on to 324 goals for Los Blancos and go ahead of Raul as the club’s all-time leading scorer.
Madrid coach Benitez was without Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez for the visit of Levante, but after a nervous start his side were on their way to a first victory in three La Liga games.
Marcelo opened the scoring on 27 minutes following a Ronaldo pass and moments later the Portuguese hit his milestone goal, while substitute Jese fired in a third late on in the second half.
“Cristiano took on a lot of responsibility today because with so many players missing he had to work hard and drive the team on, and he did that very well,” Benitez told a press conference.
“We have managed to win 3-0 in spite of the problems we had leading up to the game and I think there were many positive aspects to our performance, and we had seven academy players on the bench.”
The Spaniard also banished any fears about Gareth Bale’s fitness, explaining that he took the forward off at half-time to give him extra-time to recover from playing two matches in the last week with Wales.
“With the scoreline at 2-0 and considering the intense week he has had we thought he was tired and we wanted to bring on fresher legs,” said Benitez.
The Spaniard also had encouraging words for Jese, who scored an impressive individual effort to open his account for the season.
“Today he was close to the level we all expect from him,” said Benitez.
“The level of demands at this club are so high so he needs to keep on working as he did today – surprising defenders, working hard and shooting at goal.
“He has seen what he has to do, and the only way he will play more often is to go on to the pitch and show what he is made of.”