Benfica 1 Manchester Utd 1
Benfica 1 Manchester United 1, Estadio da Luz, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, September 14, 2011. Manchester United were rescued by an excellent individual effort from Ryan Giggs to draw equal with Portuguese Primeira Liga giants Benfica in Lisbon. Oscar Cardozo opened the scoring when he launched an unstoppable effort past Anders Lindegaard on 24 minutes before Giggs powered United level three minutes before the interval.
Reigning Barclays Premier League Champions Manchester United travelled to Portugal to take on SL Benfica at The Stadium of Light in Lisbon in a Group C match in the Champions League on the 14th of September 2011. Sir Alex Ferguson had made eight changes to the team which had trashed Bolton Wanderers by a 5-0 score at Reebok Stadium in the Premier League thanks to a hat-trick from Wayne Rooney and a brace by Javier Hernandez four days earlier. Sir Alex´s Manchester United fielded a starting eleven which included goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard; defenders Fabio, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, and Chris Smalling; midfielders Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs, and Ji-sung Park; and forwards Valencia and Wayne Rooney, while goalkeeper David de Gea; defender Phil Jones; midfielders Anderson and Nani; and forwards Dimitar Berbatov, Chicharito, and Michael Owen were sitting on the substitutes´ bench. In the previous Champions League meeting between Manchester United and Benfica at Old Trafford on the 6th of December 2006, the hosts had come from a goal down to win the clash with Fernando Santos´s boys by a 3-1 margin to ensure qualification for the knockout stages of the competition as group winners. After a long distance rocket from Portuguese U21 international Augusto Nelson had handed The Lisbon Reds a 1-0 lead the in the 27th minute of the tussle, ex-Red Star Belgrade and Spartak Moscow stopper Nemanja Vidic equalised for United on the stroke of half-time, before Ryan Giggs and Louis Saha both found the net for the home side following the break.
In Lisbon, the Manchester United players stared defeat in the face midway through the first half when an excellent through pass from attack minded midfielder Nicolas Gaitan found trigger happy marksman Oscar Cardozo who drove a devastating shot across the face of Danish netminder Anders Lindegaard and into the far corner of the goal after 24 minutes of intense play. The match went to and fro, with the aggressive and well organised home team having a little more possession in front of a boisterous 60,000 capacity crowd at the Estadio da Luz. In the 42nd minute of the encounter, Manchester United managed to score against the flow of play, though, as Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia found Ryan Giggs who sent a brilliant shot into the top right corner of the net from over 20 yards to save the visiting side from the jaws of defeat. At the same time, however, the long serving Old Trafford stalwart extended his record as the oldest goalscorer in the Champions League to 37 years and 289 days. Following the resumption, Sir Alex Ferguson´s troops raised their overall effort and the imperious Giggs came close to scoring a second goal for The Manchester Reds in the 64th minute of the midweek contest, but his fierce left-foot drive was deflected wide of the upright by Artur Moraes in the Benfica goal. Mexican frontman Javier Hernandez and Portuguese flanker Luis Nani eventually replaced Darren Fletcher and Antonio Valencia after 69 minutes, while summer signing Phil Jones came on for defensive colleague Fabio da Silva just eight minutes later. Benfica pushed hard for another goal as the second period progressed, but The Eagles were denied by Lindegaard who stood tall between the sticks. On a warm Lisbon night, Jones nearly hit the winner for Manchester United with less than five minutes left on the watch of Slovenian referee Damir Skomina, only to see his shot blocked by Benfica and Argentina international defender Ezequiel Garay. Now football may very well be a young man´s game, but Giggs made a grown man´s job of it.
To many people, Ryan Giggs was the personification of all that was good about Manchester United during the Sir Alex Ferguson era. The Cardiff born footballer was signed by Ferguson in the late 1980s and was an important part of the talented youth squad that went on to win the FA Youth Cup in 1992. By the start of the 1992-93 season, Giggs was pitched into the Manchester United first team as a winger and he instantly impressed the Old Trafford crowd with his dedication and skills. After making his First Division debut for United as a first half substitute for Denis Irwin in a 2-0 defeat against Everton at Old Trafford on the 2nd of March 1991, the powerful and speedy flank engine went on to prove himself one of the most loyal and dependable of all Manchester United players. During his playing career, he won everything there was to win at club level and even surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton’s previous record of 758 matches when he helped United win the Champions League Final against Roman Abramovich´s Chelsea on the 21st of May 2008. The Welshman will forever be remembered for scoring what turned out to be the winning goal when he ferociously blasted home Manchester United’s seventh penalty kick in front of a 70,000 crowd at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Even famous film director Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, would have been proud to write the script. Benfica Team: Artur, Emerson, Ezequiel Garay, Maxi Pereira, Luisao, Javi Garcia, Pablo Aimar, Nicolas Gaitan, Ruben Amorim, Axel Witsel, Oscar Cardozo. Substitutes: Eduardo, Jardel, Nemanja Matic, Bruno Cesar, Rodrigo Moreno, Nolito, Javier Saviola. Manchester United Team: Anders Lindegaard, Fabio, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Valencia, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs, Ji-sung Park, Wayne Rooney. Substitutes: David de Gea, Phil Jones, Anderson, Nani, Dimitar Berbatov, Chicharito, Michael Owen.