Cristiano Ronaldo strike secures top spot for Real Madrid


Real Madrid ensured they will go through to the Champions League knockout stages as group winners after a 1-0 win over Basel. Cristiano Ronaldo was on target in the Group B clash at St Jakob-Park with his first-half strike his 71st in the Champions League, taking him level with los Blancos legend Raul. Real, who confirmed their qualification into the knock-out stages with a 1-0 win over Liverpool last time out, went into the match without injured duo Jese (knee) and Luka Modric (thigh), while Pepe and Sami Khedira were rested. Basel were without defender Ivan Ivanov (knee) and striker Marco Streller (back), who has not featured since scoring the winner in the 1-0 victory over Liverpool last month. After a slow start Real tested Tomas Vaclik for the first time in the 13th minute when a James Rodriguez corner was met by Gareth Bale, with the stopper catching the effort. And five minutes later Vaclik was thankful that no Real player was in the vicinity after he fumbled a Ronaldo shot. The keeper made up for his error moments later though as he did brilliantly to keep out a Bale effort. A brief attacking foray resulted in Mohamed El-Nenny shooting over from 25 yards just before the half hour mark, but five minutes later Real were ahead. Karim Benzema burst down the left past Fabian Schar and made his way to the byline before teeing up Ronaldo, who from six yards slotted home his 26th Madrid goal of the season. Derlis Gonzalez forced Keylar Navas into his first save of the match six minutes before the break, before Shkelzen Gashi also had an effort on target as the home side finished the half strongly. The half-time whistle came at the right time for the visitors, who almost went two up when Ronaldo fizzed an effort on target from 30 yards which Vaclik tipped around the post. It was Navas' turn to take the spotlight in the 67th minute as he was on hand to deny Breel Embolo with a brilliant diving stop when the forward was through on goal. Asier Illarramendi came on for Real for the first time since injuring his groin earlier this month before Bale thundered an effort onto the bar with 15 minutes left. Bale then turned provider as Real hit the hosts on the counter but Ronaldo hit the Welshman's cross wide. Defeat was by no means a disaster for Basel, with a draw or win against Liverpool at Anfield enough to see them through to the knockout stages.