While Barcelona's narrow win preserved its unbeaten record at Camp Nou
this season, the defending champion has only scored twice in the past four home and away games.
"I'm not satisfied with our play but I'm happy about the result. With
another goal in our favor, we wouldn't have suffered so much," Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard said.
Ruud van Nistelrooy scored twice and Sergio Ramos and Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez added the others to help Madrid record its 10th away win, equaling a club record set in the 1960-61 and 1987-88 seasons.
Earlier, Antonio Puerta, Javier Chevanton and Jose Luis Marti scored
second-half goals to help second-place Sevilla beat Espanyol 3-1 and boost its chances of a first title since 1946.
Also, Zaragoza failed to climb into fourth place when it drew 2-2 at
With six games remaining, Barcelona has 62 points, while Sevilla has 61
and Madrid 60. Valencia follows with 56, two more than Zaragoza.
Levante went into the game with Barcelona having won only twice this
season and with defeats on its three previous visits to Camp Nou.
The United connection
In Bilbao, Beckham made an early impact when his inswinging free kick was met by Ramos at the back of the penalty area for Madrid's opening goal in the 14th.
A free kick from Beckham also provided Ramos with a headed goal in last
weekend's win over Valencia.
However, Beckham received a yellow card in the 75th, ruling him out of
next weekend's important league match with Sevilla.
Beckham's suspension means he has a maximum of five Madrid games remaining before he joins the Los Angeles Galaxy in August.
Van Nistelrooy doubled Madrid's lead in the 34th minute by nodding home
from Cicinho's floated cross from the right. Cicinho was appearing in the
starting lineup for the first time for seven months.
The Dutch striker then volleyed the visitors' third in the 50th for his
18th goal of the season, one less than the league's top scorers, Sevilla's
Frederic Kanoute and Zaragoza's Diego Milito.
Bilbao substitute Fernando Llorente scored with an 80th-minute header only for Madrid substitute Guti to restore the three-goal lead three minutes later with a chip.
UEFA Cup warm up
Sevilla couldn't get past Espanyol goalkeeper Carlos Kameni in the
first-half of a matchup which could be repeated in next month's UEFA Cup final.
However, midfielder Puerta seized on a loose ball to give Sevilla the lead
in the 51st, with striker Chevanton shooting the second goal in the 53rd
while lying on the ground.
Ferran "Coro'' Corominas, who scored in Espanyol's 3-0 win over Werder
Bremen in the first leg of the UEFA Cup semifinals last Thursday, reduced the deficit when he beat Sevilla's offside trap in the 60th.
Playing with a host of reserve players, Espanyol conceded a third goal in
the 74th minute when substitute Marti angled a low shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Osasuna's Juanlu Gomez opened the scoring in the fifth minute, with
Zaragoza midfielder Pablo Aimar equalizing direct from a free kick in the
Valdo Lopes restored the UEFA Cup semifinalist's lead in the 55th, with
Sergio Garcia leveling for Zaragoza in injury time.
Other results Sunday were: Racing Santander 0-0 Deportivo La Coruna;
Getafe 1-0 Real Sociedad; Gimnastic Tarragona 0-3 Villarreal; and Celta
Vigo 0-3 Mallorca.
On Saturday, Valencia beat Recreativo Huelva 2-0, while Atletico Madrid
drew 0-0 with Real Betis.