Benzema, Ronaldo on song as Real thumps Levante

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Real Madrid's French forward, Karim Benzema (right), and Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (left) celebrate a goal during the Spanish King's Cup on Wednesday.

MADRID - Karim Benzema cemented his return to form with his second hat-trick of the month and Cristiano Ronaldo also netted three goals as Real Madrid crushed lowly Levante 8-0 in its King's Cup last-16 first-leg match on Wednesday.

France striker Benzema is profiting from the absence through injury of first-choice center forward Gonzalo Higuain and followed up on his Champions League triple against Auxerre on Dec 8 with another impressive performance.

He opened the scoring against Levante in the sixth minute at the Bernabeu when he robbed Miquel Robuste, bamboozled Xavi Torres with a couple of stepovers and lashed a low shot past Gustavo Munua.

Ronaldo set up Mesut Ozil for the home side's second in the 10th minute and Benzema made the most of another defensive error to make it 3-0 in the 31st. The former Olympique Lyon forward, who has struggled to settle in Spain, bagged an assist moments before halftime when he played in Ronaldo for Real's fourth.

Tempers flared briefly at the start of the second half. Benzema clashed with Robuste off the ball and ended up with a bloodied lip. Both players were booked by the referee.

The Frenchman, who turned 23 on Sunday, completed his hat-trick in the 69th and Ronaldo added two more in the 72nd and 74th as Levante, which held Real to a 0-0 draw in La Liga in September, was totally overwhelm

Substitute Pedro Leon added the eighth in the 90th.

"It was good because I think the people want a demonstration of football and today we gave them one," Benzema said.

"I am going to work harder for the team and everyone," he said. "I am improving day by day and match by match."

Real has not won Spain's domestic Cup since 1993 and faces a possible quarterfinal against city rival and 2010 runner-up Atletico, which won its first leg at home to Espanyol 1-0 earlier on Wednesday.

The second legs are scheduled for Jan 5.

In other first legs on Wednesday, holder Sevilla twice came from a goal down in a 5-3 win at home to Malaga and Real Mallorca lost 4-3 at Almeria.

On Tuesday, Athletic Bilbao held a weakened Barcelona to a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp, while Valencia was unable to convert its domination of local rival Villarreal into goals and was also held 0-0.

Second division Cordoba came from a goal down to draw 1-1 against Deportivo Coruna.