MADRID: Real Madrid pushed on at the head of the Spanish league after a comfortable 3-0 home win over Levante in the Estadio Bernabeu.

Strikes from Cristiano Ronaldo (11min) and Marcelo (49) plus an own goal from Nikos Karabelas (81) delivered the three points against visitors who finished with 10 men after the 64th-minute expulsion of David Navarro. It might have been four but Gareth Bale hit a post in the last minute of normal time.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti’s men thus ended the day with a three-point lead over neighbours Atletico de Madrid and a four-point advantage over troubled Barcelona.

The champions had seen the sense of crisis within the boardroom extended to the pitch in Saturday’s surprise 1-0 defeat at Valladolid.

Coach Gerardo Martino was left trying to find excuses for the club’s poorest display of the season opened an opportunity for Real Madrid to stretch their lead at the top. Concerns have also arisen over the fitness and health of Leo Messi.

Martino said: “We lacked what makes us Barca: good elaboration in our build-up, finding spaces, breaking through on the wings and having depth. We had very few chances of actually running at goal and we almost always had to fight against 10 defenders. A good solution would have been creating more space.”

Atletico de Madrid had won 2-0 at Celta Vigo.

In Germany Borussia Dortmund struggle to beat Freiburg 1-0 with captain Sebastian Kehl’s first goal in almost two years to go four points clear behind runaway leaders Bayern Munich.

In Holland  champions Ajax Amsterdam saw their lead trimmed to six points after 1-1 home draw against SC Cambuur.

In Italy a superb first-half goal by Kwadwo Asamoah gave leaders Juventus a 1-0 win over fourth-placed Fiorentina to maintain their 100 percent home record.

** Dutchman Huub Stevens has been appointed new coach of German strugglers Stuttgart in place of sacked Thomas Schneider.