- Associated Press - Sunday, February 16, 2014

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Karim Benzema and Jese Rodriguez scored early to help Real Madrid ease to a 3-0 win at Getafe and restore a three-way tie for first place in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Madrid’s win matched Barcelona and Atletico Madrid’s victories on Saturday to keep the trio level after 24 rounds, and 16 points clear of the nearest chaser Athletic Bilbao after it lost 2-1 to visiting Espanyol.

With leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo serving the second of a three-game suspension, the 20-year-old Jese scored for a third straight round to get Madrid going in the fifth minute at Alfonso Perez Stadium.

Benzema made it 2-0 from Angel Di Maria’s pass in the 27th, and midfielder Luka Modric added another goal from long range in the 66th.

“The team played well from the start and the first goal made things easier for us at a ground that has always been difficult,” Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez said. “We played in an effective manner knowing we needed to win.”

Also, Espanyol earned an entertaining win to deal Bilbao its first loss in 12 league games at its new San Mames Stadium, while Granada edged Real Betis 1-0 to leave the league’s bottom dweller 10 points from safety.

Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves saved Ivan Rakitic’s 63rd-minute penalty kick in a 0-0 draw at Sevilla with his team playing with 10 men. Both teams were left level on points with Espanyol and Levante at 12 points from fourth place and the last Champions League spot.

Getafe, which never threatened Madrid, remained winless in nine straight rounds and four points from the relegation zone.

While Getafe hasn’t won in the league since November, Madrid hasn’t lost in 14 rounds going back to October.

Madrid again proved that even without the reigning Ballon d’Or winner in Ronaldo it has more than enough talent in its star-studded squad to keep winning against the Liga’s middling teams.

Behind Ronaldo’s league-leading tally of 22 goals, Benzema has scored 14 times in the league for Madrid this season, while Jese has managed five goals in what is becoming a breakthrough season for the young forward.

Jese took Ronaldo’s spot on the left side of the attack and used his pace to take Gareth Bale’s pass, move the ball to his right foot, and flick a shot just inside the far post.

Benzema doubled the lead when he chested down Di Maria’s lobbed pass on the break before driving it under goalkeeper Miguel Moya.

Modric finished Getafe off by sending a long shot off the turf and past the diving Moya.

Espanyol forward Sergio Garcia scored his 10th league goal of the season with a solo effort in the sixth. After Carlos Gurpegui leveled for Bilbao in the 56th, Espanyol defender Diego Colotto used his knee to deflect in Simao Sabrosa’s corner kick in the 65th for the winning goal.

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