Game: S.L Benfica Vs Manchester United
Venue: Estadio La Luz, Lisbon Portugal
Competition : UEFA Champions’ League Group Tie
Hello good people, so the UEFA Champions league is back again. Funny how time flies. The memories of the 3-1 thrashing, my beloved Man Utd received from Barcelona is still fresh in my mind. In more pleasant news, we did manage to exact our pound of flesh in a pre-season game, as if that can ever make up for that torrid night. By all means spot the sarcasm. Lol!. Back to serious business, a lot of you might argue that, it was not a big game but I’ll remind you that the Catalans fielded 6 of the players that beat United in the UCL final as against The Red Devils’ 3. It’s a new season but once again Barcelona remain favourites to win the UCL. This is despite their shaky start to the competition. They shared match points with A.C Milan on Match day one.
Without much ado let’s get to the subject of today’s review. Benfica is a side that plays wonderful football and this game no doubt was going to be a tough one for the Red Devils, most especially because the Gaffer rested some key players for the Chelsea game which held sunday. I was at least confident of a draw. My only fear was the Benfica attack that paraded Oscar Cardozo, Pablo Aimar, Ruben Amorim and Nolito (5goals in 5 games and he isn’t a regular). These players would definitely be a handful for my young defence as Rio Ferdinand didn’t go to Portugal with the other players as a precautionary measure. Of course with the Chelsea game in mind.
Jorge Jesus the Benfica coach had already labelled the Red Devils group favourites and stated categorically that the other members of the group would be fighting for the 2nd qualification spot. Benfica put up a starting line up I was a bit familiar with, but I was shocked by the absence of the Little Rabbit (Javier Saviola). Their line up had Artur in goal, Luisao, Ezequiel Garay, Da Conceicao Emerson, Maxi Pereira, Javi Garcia, Axel Witsel, Nicolas Gaitan, Ruben Amorim, Oscar Cardozo and Pablo Aimar. Sir Alex made 8 changes to the side that started against Bolton on Saturday. Anders Lindergaard replaced Dejo (De Gea) in goal, Fabio, Evra, Evans, Smalling, Park, Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs, Valencia and Rooney making up the 1st XI.
The 1st half kicked off with Benfica firing on all cylinders, me wey be Man Utd fan sef shock at the Red Devils’ display. It was awful. To make matters worse we had most of the possession but didn’t create any meaningful chance. Rooney was totally camera shy or should I say absent minded? Any which way he wasn’t in the match. I initailly thought Johny Evans was good enough for the game, I stand corrected. His woeful performance made rising star Chris Smalling look bad. Benfica eventually took the lead in the 24th minute through big striker Cardozo and guess who was caught napping? Johny Evans.. Shior. The pass alone could have passed for a goal. It was a sublime pass from Aimar and Cardozo’s 1st touch was tight and the finish was cool. It looked like the game was over for United at this point. Benfica kept attacking but thanks to Lindergaard in goal for United, we were able to save our blushes. United however got an equaliser in the 42nd minute. It was the veteran, Ryan Giggs who rose to the occassion and drew the United level. It was a great finish. He received a pass from Valencia and took on some defenders before releasing a shot to the right corner of the goal. It was his 29th Champions league goal. This goal made him the oldest scorer ever in the competition. The 1st half ended 1-1 and I was quite happy with that result considering all. I hoped the 2nd half would be better.
The 2nd off kicked off with the Portugese club picking up from where they left off. Though United played a little better this time. Both sides created chances but Benfica still looked the sharper of the 2 sides. The introduction of Nolito in the 56th minute sent shivers down my spine. It didn’t take long before he showed what he was capable of. His deft touch and pace forced Sir Alex to make a double substitution. He brought on Nani and Chicharito for Fletcher and Valencia. As good as that substitution looked on paper, both players made little or no impact on the pitch. Phil Jones came on for Fabio in the 78th minute, still United could not get the winner. Nolito however came close to snatching a winner for the hosts and it was Lindergaard to the rescue for what eemed like the upteenth time. He kept United in the game with a string of saves and looked a good enough contender for the number 1 goal keeping jersey. The game ended 1-1. However if winners were decided by performance and not goals, I would gladly hand Benefica the win.
My man of the match is Oscar Cardozo but Ruben Amorim and Luisao also played extremely well. Giggs had a good game thanks to his goal but the best United player on the night for me was Anders Lindergaard. However Sir Alex has said David De Gea will be his goalkeeper for the game against Chelsea match on Sunday. I hope the boys keep up the good form in the EPL.
Thanks for your time………….. Bless
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