Man Utd 2 – Benfica 0: Jose Mourinho’s side on the brink of Champions League last 16

Daley BlindREUTERS

Daley Blind converted from 12 yards to seal three points for Manchester United

For the second time on the night, United were awarded a spot kick, with the hosts leading 1-0 and the game finely balanced, after Andreas Samaris brought down lively substitute Marcus Rashford in the 78th minute.

Ander Herrera first appeared ready to take the all-important penalty only to have Romelu Lukaku apparently impose himself on the task.

As the players discussed the issue and Daley Blind also became involved, Mourinho made it clear that he wanted the Dutch full-back to take the penalty and Blind’s conversion

finally bought his team some breathing space.

United’s victory in Lisbon had been dominated by the horrendous error made by Benfica’s teenage goalkeeper Svilar, who carried a Rashford free-kick over his own goalline.

And he was the centre of attention again last night. Just before half-time, Nemanja Matic chanced his arm when space opened up for him to attempt a 25-yard shot which struck the post, rebounded out and hit Svilar on the shoulder before bouncing back into his goal.

Cruel did not begin to describe Svilar’s fortune, especially after he had made such a brilliant start to the game when he saved Anthony Martial’s penalty.

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Martial had won the decision himself after 14 minutes and a bizarre challenge from full-back Douglas who dived at the United man’s feet, bringing him down and handling the ball in the process.

But the spot kick was a poor attempt, far too casual and at the right height and pace for the goalkeeper to dive to his right and pull off an excellent stop that lifted the Portuguese side’s confidence.

Benfica had already made a solid start but Svilar’s heroics provided a further boost and, within seconds, Diogo Goncalves had unleashed a spectacular 25-yard shot that David De Gea kept out with a brilliant diving, one-handed stop.

Earlier Goncalves had picked out Samaris whose powerful shot whistled past the left-hand post and a Douglas cross was met by Raul Jimenez with an acrobatic bicycle kick that flew just wide.

Manchester United grew slightly more comfortable as the first half wore on, a couple of probing Martial runs causing the visitors problems, and Lukaku twice threatened in quick succession.

First, Svilar dived impressively at the foot of his post after the United striker had made space for himself to shoot and then a Martial run ended with a cross which Lukaku met with a header that just cleared the bar.


The second half began with United pushing on for the goal they needed to gain a cushion for the remainder of the night and Juan Mata flashed an early shot wide as they increased the pressure.

United’s nerves were exposed after 65 minutes when Eric Bailly played an appalling pass, intended for Chris Smalling, which fell directly for Jimenez whose first-time shot beat

De Gea but not the post.

The United goalkeeper had already denied Jimenez, diving to make a routine stop from his low shot.

And Goncalves also threatened as his effort took a slight deflection off Bailly and again found De Gea in unbeatable form as he dived to make sure the ball passed beyond his post for a corner.

MAN UNITED (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Darmian, Bailly, Smalling, Blind; McTominay, Matic; Mata (Herrera 68), Lingard (Mkhitaryan 46), Martial (Rashford 75); Lukaku. Booked: Bailly, Lingard.

Goals: Svilar 45 og, Blind 78 pen.

BENFICA (4-1-4-1): Svilar; Douglas, Ruben Dias, Jardel, Grimaldo (Eliseu 64); Fejsa; Samaris, Salvio, Pizzi (Jonas 80), Goncalves; Jimenez (Seferovic 74). Booked: Dias, Salvio, Samaris

Referee: G Mazeika (Lithuania).

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