Two club records were equalled in Switzerland as Ronaldo drew level with Raul in Champions League goals and Carlo Ancelotti guided the team to a 15th straight win
Cristiano Ronaldo equalled the number of Champions League goals scored by his Real Madrid predecessor Raul on the same night that Carlo Ancelotti’s team matched another club record.
With Ronaldo’s goal, Real eased into a 1-0 lead they were not going to relinquish easily and, in the process, equalled the club record 15 wins set by Miguel Munoz’s team in 1960-61 and Jose Mourinho’s in 2011-12.
This was by no means an easy fixture for Madrid. Basel had beaten both Liverpool and Ludogorets at St Jakob Park earlier on in the group stage and were defending a proud record of their own on home soil; they were unbeaten in eight here coming into this.
The defending champions had to withstand some clever football too from Paulo Sousa’s men on the night, who just did not have the firepower in the teenage Breel Embolo to trouble Keylor Navas deputising for Iker Casillas.
Embolo rounded Navas at one stage but even then the Costa Rica international recovered. At that stage of the game Basel were coming on strong. Shkelzen Gashi was making plenty of space down the left channel and had three second-half efforts on goal but despite the midfield dominance handed to them by the excellent Fabian Frei, the hosts could not capitalise.
Instead it was left to Madrid to show them how it was done.
Madrid were not at full strength, nor close to their best form, but they still got the job done. They took some blows in the first half but Ronaldo’s goal characterised their current levels of impenetrability and superiority. He is already off and chasing Lionel Messi’s goalscoring record of 74.
Karim Benzema took on Philipp Degen down the line following a good chance for Luca Zuffi and the Portugal captain’s clever movement confused both Fabian Schar and Marek Suchy. There was nothing left to do but sweep the ball home.
Later on, Ronaldo hit the post after being on the end of a pin-point counter attack. Gareth Bale and Fabio Coentrao combined on the left; Ronaldo found space and the fact that his shot cannoned off the post and out of play defied belief. He is that consistent now that you expect everything to go in. He has now scored 26 goals in 19 matches in all competitions this season.
This was not a game Real Madrid had to win but there is confidence coursing through their veins. They are in a winning groove initiated by a heavy victory over Basel in September afer the derby defeat which did a lot to undermine Ancelotti’s credibility. But they have recovered in stunning fashion.
Last season, Bayern Munich showed the dangers of easing up with the Bundesliga title already assured. They were lax and were duly swept aside by Real in the Champions League semi-finals after dropping needless points domestically. Getting into the winning habit is difficult, dropping it is very easy.
But there is currently no danger of that happening to Madrid and the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo. They are the only team in the Champions League this season with a 100 per cent record and look strong favourites to retain their title.
On a matchweek when potential title rivals Bayern and Borussia Dortmund slipped up and dropped points for the first time, Real showed their stomach for a fight; even when they didn’t have to.