The honours were shared tonight as United scraped a point in Portugal.
Team News – Sir Alex made eight changes to the side that had won 5-0 at Bolton on Saturday. These included De Gea, Jones, Anderson, Nani and Hernandez dropping to the bench. Returning to the first team after a lengthy injury spell was Fletcher whilst Valencia, Giggs and Park were all given, what for them this season, rare starts. In goal, Anders Lindegaard was hoping that he`d give a performance good enough to keep the keepers jersey for the clash with Chelsea this weekend.
United – Lindegaard, Evra, Evans, Smalling, Fabio, Giggs, Park, Carrick, Fletcher, Valencia, Rooney
Subs – De Gea, Jones, Anderson, Nani, Owen, Berbatov, Hernandez
Having not conceded a goal away from home in the Champions League last season, could United get off to a good start this time around even though the defence was lacking the experience Vidic (injured) and Ferdinand (rested) would normally provide?
First Half – United, pushing forward in the early stages, saw Valencia skip past two men but his cross was claimed by the keeper. Valencia continued his good start with a shot that fizzed over the bar. Gaitan had Benfica`s first effort but his long range shot flew over the bar and didn`t trouble Lindergaard.
Cardoza, also from some distance out, forced Lindegaard into his first save of the night. The home side were now starting to play better and their endeavour was rewarded when they took the lead, thereby ending United run of clean sheets in Champions League away games.
The goal came after Gaitan lifted a great ball into the path of Cardozo, the striker controlled it on his chest before smashing it home from eighteen yards out.
Benfica 1 United 0 (Cardozo – 24 minutes)
United tried to respond quickly but Rooney was to receive a yellow card, rather harshly, for a challenge on the Benfica keeper, Artur. Benfica continued to press and Luisao was unlucky to see a shot blocked from close range.
Despite not playing well, United were to equalize as half time approached and what a peach of a goal it was. Giggs, collecting the ball, moved across the face of the area before unleashing a left foot shot that left Artur with no chance.
Benfica 1 United 1 (Giggs – 42 minutes)
Half Time – Benfica 1 United 1
Second Half – Valencia replicated his bright start in the first half by rifling a cross across the face of the Benfica goal. The home side upped the tempo and started to dictate play with Aimar hitting a shot wide.
Giggs, raising United spirits, danced through a couple of challenges before seeing his shot saved by Artur. Benfica retaliated with a smart effort from Nolito that Lindegaaard did well to save.
Sir Alex mixed things up bringing on Nani and Hernandez for Fletcher and Valencia. But it was still Benfica that were the more threatening and Lindegaard reacted well to save from Gaitan.
Not the start many would have been hoping for but a point is a point against the strongest team, apart from us, in the group.
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