Ryan Giggs needed only once chance to give a lackluster Manchester United team, looking nothing like the squad ripping through the Premier League, a 1-1 draw in Lisbon against Benfica. The Portuguese, in traditional Red and White, scored first (Oscar Cardozo) and were much more impressive during the first half but a very good day from Anders Lindegaard gave Ferguson’s somewhat experimental side the point.
As with every Manchester United away game in the Champions League, they came to put the match to sleep in the first half and to grab a goal or two in the second half. The dull possession and slow ball movement between Giggs, Fletcher and Carrick while Wayne Rooney, in super-hot form, failed to make any sort of impact on the match throughout the 90 minutes. Wonderful job from Luisao who never lost sight of Rooney for 90 minutes.
Benfica looked dangerous and more intent on scoring from the first moment. Quick counter attacks, usually orchestrated by the fantastic Nicolas Gaitan or Pablo Aimar, gave you the feeling that Benfica will score first, as they did. Oscar Cardozo showed world class finishing with his move on Evans, giving Benfica the deserved lead. Jonathan Evans proved once again that he’s not the future of United’s central defense.
Benfica kept the pressure on United, but when you don’t score against the Red Devils when you have the chance, no matter the version, trouble soon follows. Ryan Giggs took advantage of a tiny moment of confusion in the Benfica midfield, as Rooney drew the Centre backs’ attention and Giggs scored a wonderful goal just before half time. Two months before his 38th birthday, Giggs keeps us on the edge of our seat with every dribble. Despite the troubled summer he’s had, the never-ending Welshman keeps punching the clock and adds a bonus each time.
The second half had United playing a bit more adventurous football and testing Artur a time or two, with Antonio Valencia creating most of the problems down the right wing. Benfica? mostly Nicolas Gaitan, and nothing much else. Nolito’s entrance in the 56th minute changed gave the push they needed, giving Cardozo a partner and the defense another striker to focus on. Once again, Lindegaard didn’t make any out of this world saves, but he did a very good job with a few impressive parries.
I guess both teams were happy with the result , as United got some key players to rest before the more important and probably more difficult Chelsea match this Sunday. Dropping points in Lisbon won’t stop them from qualifying rather comfortably from Group C.