Real Madrid seal top spot as Ronaldo adds to scoring mark

BASEL, Switzerland — 

Cristiano Ronaldo’s first-half goal helped Real Madrid beat Basel 1-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday, and tie a club record with a 15th straight win.

Ronaldo’s 71st career Champions League goal, in his 108th match, also tied the old competition scoring record long held by Madrid great Raul Gonzalez.

Both trail Lionel Messi by three after the Barcelona forward’s record-setting hat trick Tuesday.

Ronaldo scored in the 35th minute, tapping left-footed into an empty net from Karim Benzema’s cut-back.

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The FIFA player of the year’s shot also grazed the post in the 77th, two minutes after Gareth Bale’s shot struck the underside of the Basel crossbar.

Victory in Switzerland means defending champion Madrid wins Group B and is seeded in the last-16 draw on Dec. 19.

Basel remains second on six points, two ahead of Ludogorets Razgrad and Liverpool who drew 2-2 on Wednesday.

Basel visits Liverpool in the final round in two weeks.

Madrid’s 15-match winning run, which started with a 5-1 rout of Basel on Sept. 16, is the third in club history. The most recent was achieved three seasons ago under coach Jose Mourinho.

It also ended Basel’s own five-match win sequence.

Still, two teams on winning runs served up a tepid opening until Ronaldo’s goal, though Basel responded forcing two chances in the 40th.

Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, making his Champions League debut, comfortably saved shots from Derlis Gonzalez and Shkelzen Gashi.

Gashi wasted a 56th-minute chance, slicing a shot on his weaker right foot, and worried Navas when sending a 20-meter header just high.

The Costa Rica ‘keeper then scrambled back to push away Breel Embolo’s shot after being rounded by the 17-year-old forward.

After Madrid’s stars twice struck the frame of Basel’s goal, the hosts pressed for a leveler as Liverpool led 2-1 late in the game in Bulgaria.

Play was held up in the 88th when three fans sprinted across the pitch chased by stewards.

In stoppage time, Basel substitutes Yoichhiro Kakitani and Ahmed Hamoudi both had efforts on goal, with the Egypt midfielder curling a left-foot shot just wide.