Although Real Madrid were already qualified for the Champions League Round of 16, there were things at stake tonight in Basel. Securing the first place in the group stage, for which a draw would have sufficed, was mandatory, but achieving the fifteenth consecutive victory to equalize the longest winning streak in the club's history was also a target tonight. Ronaldo's goal after a brilliant slalom by Benzema was enough to fulfill both tasks.
FC Basel: Vaclik; Degen (Hamoudi, 76'), Schär, Suchy, Safari; Elneny, Frei (Díaz, 83'), Zuffi (Kakitani, 87'); González, Embolo, Gashi.
Real Madrid: Navas; Arbeloa, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao; Kroos, Isco (Nacho, 93'), James (Marcelo, 89'); Bale, Benzema (Illarramendi, 71'), Ronaldo.
The first half
The early minutes were quite hard for Real Madrid. Just like last Saturday in Eibar, our rivals tried to implement a very intense pressure in order to complicate our possession, and our midfielders had a hard time beating it. Kroos, as usual, dictated the tempo, but the aid of Isco and James was not enough to break lines and build a consistent attack. The incorporations of Ramos into the midfield to create superiorities were frequent, since the fullbacks (Coentrao and Arbeloa) were not really helping there.
By the fifteenth minute, however, the game changed, apparently because Basel's players started to run out of breath. A header by Bale after a corner kick was our first chance, which was followed by a shot by Ronaldo that Vaclik deflected with great difficulties. Our strikers were found offside a couple of times before Benzema pulled a rabbit out of the hat with a brilliant slalom through the left wing which led him to assist Ronaldo for the only goal in the night.
Although they were down in the scoreboard, our rivals did not lose their defensive concentration and kept making it hard for us to reach their box. They were even able to build a couple of possessions in our side of the field that led to a shot that Navas easily blocked and a chance that, in a clear offside position, González missed. Just before the break, Ramos was booked and, as a result, he will not be able to play against Ludogorets in two weeks, but he will move on to the next round with no yellow cards in his backpack.
The second half
After the break, it seemed quite clear that Ancelotti's plan was to freeze the game with long possessions to avoid risks, but Basel increased their pressing once again and our midfielders were unable to keep the control. Unlike last Saturday, it seemed that the Kroos-Isco-James trio was a bit overwhelmed by the high rhythm dictated by our rivals, and Navas had to prove that he is still the great goalkeeper that astonished everyone in the World Cup, with a couple of very important saves, the second of which was just amazing.
The entrance of Illarramendi, who took Benzema's spot, and the switch to a 4-4-2 served our men to regain control of the game. Coentrao started to appear in offensive positions and our players managed to create two new goal chances that could have easily resulted in the second goal: a shot by Bale that hit the crossbar, and another by Ronaldo that went to the post. The five minutes of extra time served Basel to try and break our defence for the last time, but the 0-1 was maintained until the end.
This result enabled Real Madrid to keep their perfect score in the present edition of the Champions League, securing the first place in the group stage, and to equalize the longest winning streak in the club history, with the fifteenth consecutive victory. Hopefully, Málaga will be our next victim on Saturday, and Ancelotti's men will have beaten a new record.