Match - Tue 22 November, 21:45,
|0. (30’)||0. (3’) [OG]|
|0. (59’)||10. (60’)|
Disappointing draw for Devils
Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov (centre) in action with Benfica's Pablo Aimar (right) annd Francisco Javi Garcia
The first 45 minutes produced a highly entertaining game of football with plenty of goal mouth action. The half, however, certainly didnít start the way many expected as the home side found themselves a goal down in only the third minute.
In their first foray forward Benfica attacked down the right flank with Nicolas Gaitan. The striker was simply given too much time and space and was allowed to make his way into the box before supplying a venomous cross across the face of goal.
Unfortunately for Phil Jones, and United, the defender toe-poked the ball into the back of his own net from only a couple yards out as he attempted to make the clearance, 1-0.
After conceding the early goal the Red Devilís rhythm was visibly upset and as such they struggled to find their normal fluid passing game. Instead, the opening 20 minutes, all be it possession dominated by United, was characterised by miss-placed passes and unimaginative ideas in the final third of the field.
Finally, in the 30th minute United were able to string some passes together down the left before Nani provided a teasing in-swinging cross that saw Dimitar Berbatov on the end of. The Red Devils striker rose highest to glance the ball past the Benfica keeper with a delicate ten-yard header, 1-1.
After that the game sprang into life and we nearly witnessed two goals in the 32nd minute. Only the teamís respective keepers kept the scores the same.
First, Berbatov slipped Ashley Young through on goal with a pinpoint pass and left him with only the keeper to beat. The United striker, however, failed to take the opportunity as he was quickly smothered by Artur Moraes who made a good one-on-one save.
Then, mere seconds later and it was Benfica on the attack. A nice passing movement saw Pablo Aimar in space inside the left edge of the 18-yard box, but his 12-yard shot was superbly stopped by David De Gea flinging himself to the left to make the finger-tip save and keep the scores level at the break.
The second half certainly saw United doing all the early pressing and it seemed only a matter of time before they took the lead.
The home side did eventually find that goal in the 59th minute after a mountain of sustained pressure on the Benfica goal.
The goal came from the left side of the field again as Patrice Evra supplied a deep cross into the box allowing Darren Fletcher time to get behind the defence. Fletcher after initially flicking his shot goalwards from 14-yards out, saw his original effort saved, but he quickly followed up to side-foot the ball home form a couple of yards out, 2-1.
Unitedís joy, however, was short-lived as Benfica equalised a minute later after some slack defending by the Red Devils allowed Bruno Cesar to push inside the box from the left side of the field. His low cross was partially cleared by Rio Ferdinand, but straight into the path of Aimar who pounced on the loose ball from four-yards out to level matters, 2-2.
This made for a frantic final half hour as United continued to press forward in search of a winner that would see them automatically qualify for the next round of the competition.
Benfica, though, stuck all eleven men behind the ball in defence and were able to hold on for a much deserved draw.