United Win Over Benfica Takes Them Closer To Knockout Stage
Manchester United after beating Benfica 2-0 at Old Trafford on Tuesday to make it a perfect four wins in Group A are almost certain to reach the knockout stage of the Champions League.
An own goal by Benfica’s 18-year-old keeper Mile Svilar on the stroke of halftime and a Daley Blind penalty in the 78th minute were enough for United, who struggled at times to find their fluency.
Anthony Martial, who provided a threat from the left with his trickery and pace, earned a penalty for United when he was tripped by Douglas, but the Frenchman’s spot-kick was kept out by Mile Svilar.
When the goal came, just before halftime, it had a strong element of good fortune to it.
Svilar, the youngest keeper in Champions League history whose error had gifted United a 1-0 win when the teams met two weeks ago in Lisbon, could do nothing as a Nemanja Matic shot struck the post and bounced into the goal off his back.
Benfica had several good chances to draw level but United keeper David De Gea was his usual reliable self.
The one time the Spaniard was beaten, Mexican forward Raul Jimenez‘s shot struck the outside of the post after he had intercepted a loose pass from Eric Bailly to Chris Smalling.
The introduction of Marcus Rashford for Martial injected some life into United’s attack and it was the 19-year-old who created the second goal.
The winger burst into the area, skipping by two defenders before he was brought down by Andreas Samaris.
Romelu Lukaku looked set to take the kick, but after an apparent intervention from Mourinho, it was Blind who converted.
Jose Mourinho‘s team now need just a point from their final two games in the group, against Basle and CSKA Moscow, to make absolutely certain of their place in the knockout stage for the first time in four years.
The result moved them six points clear at the top of the group, yet United, who qualified by winning the Europa League last season, were well below their best, labouring in midfield and sloppy at times at the back.