Benfica 1 Manchester Utd 1

Ryan Giggs

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.


Front Page