UEFA Champions League Group A
Manchester United vs. Benfica
Venue: Old Trafford
Date: Tuesday, 31 October 2017
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Manchester United maintained their 100% start to this season’s Champions League with a 2-0 win over Benfica.
Anthony Martial failed to follow-up his weekend winner against Tottenham after seeing a penalty saved early on, but Nemanja Matic’s shot led to an own goal from goalkeeper Mile Svilar to open the scoring.
There was to be a converted penalty in the second half, however, as Daley Blind made sure from 12 yards to seal victory at Old Trafford.
The early exchanges saw Martial’s free-kick fly over the bar without troubling before Andreas Samaris drove a shot just wide of David De Gea’s right-hand post.
Striker Raul Jimenez saw an acrobatic attempt drop wide before the first penalty incident arrived.
Martial’s silky dribbling saw Douglas fall to the ground and touch the ball via his hand, but Svilar dived low to his right and denied the Frenchman’s spot-kick.
Captain Chris Smalling headed wide from the resulting corner before De Gea produced a flying save to prevent Diogo Goncalves from finding the top corner.
Aiming for the near post, Romelu Lukaku’s shot was tipped behind by fellow countryman Svilar before heading over Martial’s cross.
The latter then fired over via his weaker left foot before the deadlock was broken on the stroke of half time.
Against his former club, Matic found bags of room to conjure up a shot, and the powerful strike struck the post but hit the back of the diving Svilar to give United the lead.
There was time for Svilar to deny Lukaku one-on-one before the interval arrived.
After the break, Juan Mata’s first time effort flew over with De Gea going down low to hold a Jimenez shot.
De Gea’s fingertip save then denied Goncalves before Jimenez struck the post after Eric Bailly’s slack pass allowed the Mexican a free hit.
Almost an immediate impact from Marcus Rashford won United’s second penalty when he was bundled over by Samaris after some mazy dribbling.
After much debate as to who the taker would be, Blind smashed the ball home in front of the Stretford End.
An ambitious shot from Rashford was dragged wide of the near post who then teed up Lukaku for a blocked shot.
Eduardo Salvio’s header at the back post was held with ease but this win was the fourth from four in this season’s Champions League for United.
This competition will be placed on ice for three weeks when a trip to Switzerland awaits for F.C. Basle to play host to Jose Mourinho’s side.
Positives to take include 90 minutes for Scott McTominay who did not look out of place, a new club record of 38 unbeaten matches at home whilst preserving a 100% record at Old Trafford this season, keeping a seventh clean sheet in eight games in the process.
Mourinho himself was equally satisfied with the performance and the result.
When quizzes on what pleased the Portuguese, Jose answered: “Everything. The points, the clean sheet, the dynamic and it was a difficult dynamic because we broke that dynamic in these routines.
“We broke the stability by changing so many players. It was six changes.
“I’m happy with an Academy kid to play 90 minutes in a Champions League match. I’m happy we almost qualified but I’m quite a bit disappointed we are not yet,” added Jose.
Mourinho confessed he was happy after four consecutive away fixtures followed by these past two tricky home contests and will now turn his attention to facing his former employers this Sunday.
A trip to Chelsea in the Premier League will be a big test to see how far this side have come, with a 4:30pm kick-off at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester United: De Gea; Darmian, Bailly, Smalling, Blind; McTominay, Matic; Mata (Herrera 68), Lingard (Mkhitaryan 46), Martial (Rashford 75); Lukaku.
Subs not used: Romero, Lindelof, Shaw, Young.
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Benfica: Svilar; Douglas, Jardel, Ruben Dias, Grimaldo (Eliseu 64); Fejsa, Pizzi (Jonas 79), Samaris; Salvio, Jimenez (Seferovic 75), Goncalves.
Subs not used: Julio Cesar, Lisandro Lopez, Eliseu, Zivkovic, Cervi.
Manager: Rui Vitoria