MX23RW : Monday, October 25 19:59:12| >> :60:1723:1723:
Oct 31, 2017 at 7.45pm UK at Old Trafford
Attendance: 74,437
Man UtdManchester United
2-0
Benfica
Svilar (45' og.), Blind (78' pen.)
FT(HT: 1-0)

Live Commentary: Manchester United 2-0 Benfica - as it happened

Relive Manchester United's 2-0 win over Benfica as they move to the brink of qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League.
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Manchester United continued their 100% record in Champions League Group A this season with a 2-0 win over Benfica at Old Trafford tonight.

Anthony Martial saw a first-half penalty saved by Mile Svilar, but an own goal from Benfica's 18-year-old goalkeeper put the Red Devils in front on 45 minutes.

There was little that Svilar could do as Nemanja Matic's long-range drive hit the post and rebounded off the young stopper back into the net.

Raul Jimenez struck the post for Benfica after the break before United were awarded a second penalty, which Daley Blind struck powerfully down the middle.

Relive how the action unfolded in Manchester with Sports Mole's minute-by-minute updates.


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Evening ladies and gents and welcome to another night of great Champions League coverage on Sports Mole! Manchester United picked up a huge result against Tottenham at the weekend and tonight Jose Mourinho can shush some more of his detractors by qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League.

The big team news is that 20-year-old midfielder Scott McTominay starts for Manchester United.

MAN UNITED: De Gea; Darmian, Bailly, Smalling, Blind; Matic, McTominay; Lingard, Mata, Martial; Lukaku
Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Shaw, Herrera, Mkhitaryan, Young, Rashford


BENFICA: Svilar; Douglas, Ruben Dias, Jardel, Grimaldo; Fejsa, Filipe Augusto, Pizzi, Salvio; Jiminez, Goncalves
Subs: Cesar, Lisandro Lopez, Samaris, Jonas, Seferovic, Eliseu, Cervi

What a night this is for Scott McTominay then. The 20-year-old was a last-minute substitute in the reverse fixture between these two sides a fornight ago, but this is his first Champions League start. The young midfielder was probably trick or treating this time last year.

Mourinho has made a total of six changes from Saturday's win over Tottenham, with only goalkeeper David de Gea, defenders Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku pulling double duty. Match-winner Anthony Martial gets a start in place of Marcus Rashford.

Victor Lindelof had started all four of United's European matches prior to tonight, but Mourinho only has enough trust in the Swede to put him on the bench after a couple of ugly errors in the defeat to Huddersfield earlier this month. Phil Jones is rested after only recently returning from a layoff.

Martial is deservedly given an opportunity from the start. The Frenchman has scored four Premier League goals as a substitute this season - his only goals as a starter have come in cup competitions, including a penalty in the Champions League win over CSKA Moscow in September.

On the other wing, Jesse Lingard is another who will be looking to impress Mourinho. He couldn't have done much more on his last start, when he scored two excellent goals in the EFL Cup success over Swansea City. Juan Mata and Lukaku make up the front four.

Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind come in at full-back as Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are given rests ahead of this weekend's huge Premier League trip to Chelsea. Poor old Luke Shaw at least makes it onto the bench this evening.

For Benfica, 18-year-old goalkeeper Mile Svilar is still in between the posts despite his high-profile error in their 1-0 defeat in Lisbon. The rookie stopper carried Marcus Rashford's free-kick over the line to gift United victory.

The visitors make only one change from the reverse fixture, with veteran captain Luisao suspended after his 90th-minute sending off for two bookings at the Stadium of Light. Jardel returns for his first appearance since the start of October to skipper the side.

Douglas has shaken off a knock to feature at right-back, keeping Andre Almeida, who missed the reverse fixture through suspension, out of the side. Raul Jimenez and Diogo Goncalves start up front with 13-goal top scorer Jonas left on the bench again.

United have led the Premier League resurgence at Europe's top table this season, winning all three of their Group A matches. If they better CSKA's Moscow's points return from their match with Basel, United are through to the knockout stages.

After wiping the floor with Basel and CSKA, the 1-0 win in Benfica was one of the less convincing United performances of the season. Sandwiched in between the 0-0 snore at Liverpool and the defeat to Huddersfield, United were far from their best and needed a fluke Rashford goal for the three points.

Speaking of Rashford, the United forward turned 20 today! A Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup winner already, it has been a wonderful start to his career, but you get the impression that 26 goals in 87 games is just the start for him at Old Trafford.

Having been criticised for his pragmatic approach in recent games against Liverpool and Tottenham, if not the results, Mourinho may take this visit of Benfica as an opportunity to allow his players to express themselves, getting the fans firmly on side.

Then again, the Special One hasn't ever been one to pander (except to the cameras) and his programme notes show him continuing to pick a needless fight with United's own supporters.

He wrote: "I hope that you enjoy the game more than some of you did against Tottenham.

"It was an extremely tight game between two big teams, but I think we got what we deserved for our efforts. They gave absolutely everything, so even if we hadn't won, then I would have been proud of them."


Elsewhere in his pre-match comments, Mourinho has put his players on guard by claiming that Benfica are the best of United's Group A opponents, despite being bottom of the standings and having lost 5-0 to Basel. Whether he believes it or not, this is what he had to say to reporters this week...

"Benfica are a better team than Basel and CSKA. Yes, they are in a difficult position and now they can really only expect to get enough points to go into the Europa League. So they are going to try to get at least a point from our match."


The Red Devils are one of five teams with 100% record after three games of the group stage, the others being Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Manchester City and, surprisingly, Besiktas. The company they keep in that group is proof though that much bigger tests await.

United are on an impressive run of 19 home European matches without defeat (15 wins, four defeats) The last time that they lost a Champions League match on their own turf was in against Real Madrid when Nani was controversially sent off for a high boot.

Around 20 minutes until kickoff at the Theatre of Dreams. Sports Mole also has Chelsea's trip to Roma and Barcelona's match with Olympiacos covered in our live commentary section.

HEAD TO HEAD: Man United have won seven of the 10 meetings between these two sides, including the memorable 1968 European Cup final against Eusebio and company, when George Best, Bobby Charlton and Brian Kidd all scored in extra time for a 4-1 triumph.

Benfica's only win against the Red Devils came in Lisbon in the 2005-06 season in which Sir Alex Ferguson's side finished bottom of their group with only one win from six games - against the Portuguse side in the reverse fixture.

Benfica went on to knock defending champions Liverpool out in the same campaign.


United's programme cover tonight pays tribute to that Best vs. Eusebio showdown...


The visitors have never won at Old Trafford, although they did draw here in 2011 when a team filled with the Argentine flair of Pablo Aimar and Nicolas Gaitan came away with a 2-2 draw. Phil Jones, only 19 at the time, scored an own goal that night.

Benfica are on their worst ever European run of four successive losses. They were a little unfortunate to lose their opening match to CSKA, having had 73% possession, but have been firmly second best against Basel and United since and are now scrapping for the Europa League, at best.

It has been a better start domestically for the Portuguese champions. They have won seven of their 10 league games, including their last two since losing to United, although that only puts them third in the standings behind Porto and Sporting Lisbon.

It would be a surprise if Benfica were to turn up and turn United over here but this is a team who has won four successive domestic titles, and completed the Primeira Liga, Taca de Portugal and Supertaca treble under manager Rui Vitoria last term.

ONE TO WATCH: With Jonas and Haris Seferovic on the bench, the only other player to have scored more than one league goal for Benfica this season is Eduardo Salvio. The Argentine winger is a Football Manager favourite and has as much guile and trickery in the real game.

PREDICTION: Benfica's European form is poor and United should stroll to victory. The Old Trafford faithful would love to see some goals and I reckon they might be treated to a 3 or 4-0 win.

KICKOFF: The Lithuanian officials get the game underway - and Benfica were forced into a late change to their lineup after a warm-up injury to Filipe Augusto, who is replaced by Andreas Samaris.

Benfica have made a confident start, with Salvio releasing Douglas down the right flank with an intelligent reverse pass. Blind has to concede a corner from which De Gea has to be on his toes as the ball rebounds off Smalling's thigh and towards goal.

Blind knocks a ball over the top for Lingard, who is wrongly flagged offside as he tries to round Svilar, who is off his line quickly and takes the ball before the referee's whistle stops play.

YELLOW! Martial goes on a brilliant run, taking three Benfica players out of the game before Ruben Dias is forced to bring him to ground. The referee has little choice but to brandish an early booking.

Martial hits the resultant free kick way over the crossbar. It was much more suited to Juan Mata's left foot but the Spaniard let a clearly confident Martial take charge.

SHOT! Benfica work the ball nicely off the left wing and tee the ball up for Samaris, who shoots just a few yards wide of De Gea's goal, which has not been breached in over nine hours of football at Old Trafford.

McTominay is knocked off the ball on the edge of his box and Benfica work the ball wide to get a cross in which Raul Jiminez sends wide with an ambitious bicyle kick. That would have been some way to open your account for the season.

In his previous start against Swansea last week, McTominay was able to get on the ball a lot, but judging by the way that Benfica are moving the ball in the early stages he will have s tougher job this evening. This time they attack down the left and Bailly blocks from Giraldo's shot.

PENALTY! United have a penalty for handball against Douglas. It's all through the good work of Martial though, who powers his way through several defenders, knocks Douglas to the floor and the Benfica man leaves his arm outstretched on the floor to block Martial's progress.

MISSED! Svilar saves from Martial, guessing the right way and tipping the spot kick around the post. That will be an amazing feeling for the teenager after his mistake in the reverse match. The penalty from Martial could have been better, it wasn't exactly in the corner.

Just before United's penalty, Benfica manager Vitoria felt that his side should have had a spot kick of their own. Bailly's shoulder barge on Pizzi was certainly overexuberant, and anywhere else on the pitch it probably would have been a foul.

SAVE! Goncalves dribbles across the area from the left before unleashing a fierce right-foot shot from 25 yards which De Gea has to be at his best to prevent it going in the top corner.

The hosts should of course be ahead through that missed Martial penalty, but Benfica would have been unfortunate to go behind because they have been the better team so far, playing with much more confidence than they did in Lisbon.

Injury concern for United with Lingard down holding the bottom of his back. Mkhitaryan leaves the United bench to begin a warm-up but Mourinho sends him back to get his kitted up straight away. It looks like this substitution is imminent.

Lingard has been attended to by the physio and it seems as though he is going to try to run it off. Mkhitaryan sticks a bib on for the timebeing.

YELLOW! United want a second chance from 12 yards as Ljubomir Fejsa bundles Mata to ground. It was more of a tangle of legs than anything, but a more blatant foul is Bailly going through Grimaldo to stop a Benfica break, and the United defender is carded.

YELLOW! To add insult to injury, Lingard has also been shown a yellow card for reentering the pitch without the referee's permission. His back does appear to be loosening up though.

Martial has looked to run at Douglas, who is much more comfortable attacking from right-back than defending, at every opportunity. He is single-handedly getting Old Trafford on its feet, but is crowded out on this occasion.

SHOT! Lukaku manages to squeeze a shot through the legs of Jardel and Svilar gets down low at his near post.

CHANCE! Here's another opportunity for the Belgian striker as Blind stands a cross up to the far post which is met with a decent header that Svilar safely ushers over the crossbar. Benfica skipper Jardel just did enough there to prevent Lukaku from generating serious power.

Mata shows some lovely footwork to get out of trouble in his own corner, but United need that higher up the pitch. The Spaniard has been wasted tracking back Benfica full-back Grimaldo while Lingard has occupied a central role. Those two need to swap positions to be most effective.

UPDATE: There has been a goal elsewhere in Group A, with Basel leading CSKA Moscow 1-0 before half time. That means, if results end as they are, United would stil qualify for the last 16 with a draw.

Another brilliant run from Martial, who runs with such speed and directness that he must terrify defenders. He is one touch away from creating a scoring opportunity entirely for himself, before Ruben Dias gets an important foot in.

McTominay has done some good defensive things in the last few minutes, taking up sensible positions to half a couple of Benfica attacks. He has been very cautious with his passing so far though and United are in need of some greater impetus from central midfield.

SHOT! The ball breaks to Lukaku, who releases Martial in the left channel but the Frenchman's first touch is poor and the subsequent left footed swing is even worse as it sails over the bar.

GOAL! MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 BENFICA (MILE SVILAR own goal)

Poor Mile Svilar, who must be thinking the Champions League gods have it in for him. Matic hits a ferocious drive from 30 yards, it cannons back off the post, hits the 18-year-old goalkeeper on the back and rebounded back into the net. So incredibly unlucky.

SAVE! Troy Deeney would love Svilar, because this kid certainly has some cojones on him! He could be forgiven for cowering in his goal, wishing that Old Trafford would swallow him up, but instead he is off his line to make an excellent block from Lukaku one-on-one.

HALF TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 BENFICA

Mourinho strides into the tunnel on the half-time whistle, but his Red Devils are pretty fortunate to be ahead here. Benfica have arguably had the better of things from open play and only another Halloween horror moment for their young goalkeeper has given United the lead.

As opposed to his self-inflicted mistake in Lisbon, there was absolutely nothing that 18-year-old Svilar could do this time. He was still grounded from trying to save Matic's shot when the ball rebounded off the post, against the goalkeeper's back and over the line.

Martial has been the standout performer for the Red Devils, really troubling Benfica with his direct running off the left wing. The Frenchman will be kicking himself that he hasn't got on the scoresheet, though, missing that early penalty which Svilar saved.

From Benfica's young star to one of United's, and Scott McTominay has struggled a little on his Champions League debut. He hasn't influenced the game much on the ball, keeping his passing simple, and must be finding this a physical step up too.

UPDATE: As it stands, United will qualify for the last 16 tonight and set up a big clash with Basel to decide who will top Group A, with the Swiss currently 1-0 up against CSKA Moscow. Chelsea's progress is by no means guaranteed though, as they trail Roma 2-0 at half time. Celtic are also losing, 1-0 down at home to Bayern Munich.

BENCH WATCH: I'm sure the United fans would love to see Marcus Rashford in the second half - him and Martial on the pitch at the same time is a scary prospect for defences. Lingard has been quiet and picked up a knock so could make way.

KICKOFF: The action resumes, and Lingard has been replaced by Mourinho, although it is Henrikh Mkhitarayan who has been brought on to try to inject a little more quality on the ball in the final third.

The hosts have enjoyed some steady possession at the start of this second half. They just need to keep feeding the ball to Martial because, on this form, it is only a matter of time before he makes something happen.

Martial pops up on the right this time, and back-heels the ball through to Darmian on the byline. His cross towards Lukaku is intercepted, and Mata blazes the loose ball high into the stands.

Lukaku tries to spin away from Ruben Dias on the halfway line and gets trodden on the ankle by the Benfica defender. That looked a painful one but the Belgian is back on his feet.

His performance has had everything but an end product tonight, Martial. The United speedster has twice got into great positions on the left in the last couple of minutes but has miscontrolled the ball out of play.

There has been little sign of the attacking threat that Benfica posed in the first half since the break. Their full-backs were so involved in the opening 45 minutes but have not been able to get forward thus far in the second.

SHOT! Jiminez creates a yard of space to get a shot away in front of Bailly, but it is straight at De Gea who holds well. Benfica need a point tonight really as they scrap for a Europa League place.

Benfica are enjoying a good spell, with Pizzi and Salvio tight on the ball but they don't have the kind out outlet that United do in Martial and are finding it difficult to break the hosts down.

SAVE! What was I saying? Goncalves produces a lovely first touch to get away from Smalling and his shot from the edge of the box is destined for the bottom corner before De Gea makes a cracking save to turn it behind for a corner.

Bailly makes a really important tackle on Jiminez inside the area as the Benfica striker bore down on goal.

SUBSTITUTION: Benfica make their first change as Eliseu replaces left-back Grimaldo. Still Jonas and Seferovic, who have 19 goals between them this season, remain on the bench.

WOODWORK! So sloppy from Bailly as a risky pass to Smalling across his own goal is picked up by Jiminez, who shoots left footed against the post. De Gea was beaten, but the Benfica striker really should have scored. Bailly will be relieved that he didn't.

SUBSTITUTION: Ander Herrera comes on for his Spanish beau Juan Mata with 23 minutes of normal time remaining. That is hardly an attacking change that is going to get Old Trafford rocking.

YELLOW! Salvio enters the book for Benfica for cynically tugging back Mkhitaryan on the halfway line.

Mkhitaryan finds a nice pocket from which he threads a great return pass to Lukaku, but again the Svilar is quick off his line to thwart the Belgian, who had been flagged offside anyway.

United are turning up the heat a little here with their build-up play, with Mkhitaryan at the centre of things. A shooting chance is engineered for McTominay, but Ruben Dias makes a good block.

SUBSTITUTIONS: Martial gets a warm round of applause as he comes off for Rashford in United's final change. For Benfica, finally we see Seferovic, the scorer of their only Champions League goal this season.

PENALTY! An immediate impact from Rashford as he wins United a second penalty of the night. It is a Martial-esque run off the left flank, turning the defenders inside and out and eventually getting tripped by Andreas Samaris.

GOAL! MANCHESTER UNITED 2-0 BENFICA (DALEY BLIND, pen)

Lukaku and Herrera both line the penalty up before left-back Blind surprisingly overrules. The Dutchman smashes the spot kick down the middle, and that should send United into the last 16.

SUBSTITUTION: Benfica top scorer Jonas is on for Pizzi but surely it is too little, too late.

UPDATE: CSKA Moscow have turned things around in Group A's other game and now lead Basel 2-1. That means that United will have to wait to officially book their place in the knockout stages.

Rashford tries to catch Svilar out from range but this time the young goalkeeper is not going to be embarrassed by the Manchester United wonderkid and he takes the ball safely.

Great wing play from Salvio as he gets away from Blind and puts in a decent cross, but Seferovic in the middle did not fancy gambling on it.

SAVE! Jonas shows off some keepy-ups in the box and then knocks a cross deep to Salvio, whose header is saved by the perfectly-positioned De Gea at the back post.

There will be THREE minutes of stoppage time. Can Rashford grab a birthday goal?

FULL TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 2-0 BENFICA

A missed penalty, an own goal, a second penalty scored by a left-back...it wasn't a convential victory for United but they have made it four from four in the Champions League and all but booked their place in the last 16. Jose Mourinho will be pleased.

That's it from me, but you can read a match report on the action from Old Trafford here. Alternatively, catch up with the rest of tonight's final scores, including a stinker for Chelsea, in our results section. Sports Mole will be back with more Champions League coverage tomorrow. Until then!

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Jose Mourinho winks during the Premier League game between Stoke City and Manchester United on September 9, 2017
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