BARCELONA, Spain -- Cristiano Ronaldo netted another hat trick in Real Madrid's 5-1 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday, as the Portugal forward extended his scoring run to nine goals in his last four games.
Ronaldo's latest bundle of goals took him three past Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa as the leading scorer in the Spanish league with 16 through 13 rounds. Ronaldo also tops the Champions League with eight goals.
"(Ronaldo) is playing on another level," Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "He scores with such incredible ease. It's tough to find words to describe him."
Madrid's win pulled it to within two points of Atletico and three points behind league leader Barcelona before they have matches on Sunday.
Ronaldo opened the scoring, adding another goal from the penalty spot and a third with a well-placed free kick. Karim Benzema also kept up his good form by scoring while Gareth Bale set up Sami Khedira for a goal.
Ronaldo has eight multi-goal performances, including three hat tricks, in 17 matches for Madrid this season. He will hope to keep his streak going when Portugal plays Sweden in a two-leg playoff on Nov. 15 and 19 with only the winner qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
"It will be a very important tie for us," Ronaldo said. "We want to be in the World Cup and we will try our hardest to get there."
Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao rallied past Levante 2-1 to provisionally move even on points with Villarreal in fourth place.
Rayo Vallecano won 2-0 at Celta Vigo to escape last place and push Real Betis down into the cellar overnight.
Elche, meanwhile, earned a 1-1 draw at Getafe to remain unbeaten in its last four away matches.
Sociedad never stood a chance at the Santiago Bernabeu against a Madrid side that kept its attack firing away for a fourth straight game while finally shoring up a defence that had become penalty prone with five whistled against it in the previous three games.
Ancelotti promised on Friday that his team would win over the demanding Bernabeu crowd by improving its style of play. A day later, the Italian manager called his team's first half "perfect."
Tough to argue with that.
Ronaldo lashed a shot off the top of the crossbar in the eighth minute in a warning of what was to come.
He then made sure not to miss in the 12th when Benzema spotted him switched to the right side of the attack with a floated pass that Ronaldo batted down and blasted by Sociedad goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
Ronaldo returned the favour four minutes later by dribbling down the left flank and squaring for Benzema to volley in his fourth goal in as many games.
A stunned Sociedad helped concede the third goal when Ronaldo's low shot hit Markel Bergara's arm inside the area. Instead of drilling his spot kick, Ronaldo lured Bravo into diving to one side while he gently placed the ball down the middle.
"Too many times we were just looking on," said Antoine Griezmann, who scored Sociedad's consolation goal.
Bale found Khedira alone on the edge of the box for the midfielder's first goal of the campaign in the 36th.
Sociedad didn't threaten the hosts' area until the 61st when Griezmann ran on to a pass awkwardly headed back by Madrid defender Pepe that he skillfully chipped over goalie Diego Lopez.
That gave Griezmann eight goals in the league, drawing the Sociedad forward level with Barcelona's Lionel Messi for the league's third-leading scorer.
The victory was secure but Ronaldo wasn't done and curled a free kick over the barrier in the 76th, as a flat-footed Bravo was turned into a bystander.
Bilbao's win over Levante was the fifth time in as many games at its new San Mames Stadium that the Basque club has come from behind to stayed undefeated at home, and Rayo kept Celta winless at home in seven matches at Balaidos Stadium this season.
On Sunday, Barcelona visits Betis while Atletico travels to Villarreal. Also, Espanyol hosts Sevilla and Valencia welcomes Valladolid.
Granada beat Malaga 3-1 in Friday, when Almeria won 1-0 at Osasuna.