Giggs rescues United
Benfica pegged back at Estadio da Luz
By Graeme Bailey - Tweet me: @skygraemebailey. Last Updated: 14/09/11 10:13pm
Giggs: On target
Ryan Giggs rescued Manchester United as they came from behind to claim a 1-1 with Benfica in their opening UEFA Champions League clash.
The Portuguese giants went ahead early in the first-half thanks to an excellent strike from Paraguayan Oscar Cardozo.
United fielded a much changed line-up, but they fought back in Lisbon and their hero was veteran Giggs who fired home a brilliant equaliser just before the break.
Both sides had chances to win the game, but United held firm and in no small part to Danish keeper Anders Lindegaard - who was playing instead of David de Gea - and made a string of fine saves.
Whilst Sir Alex Ferguson could not have been that impressed with his side's performance, with seven players making their first starts this season - but not record signing Dimitar Berbatov, who remained on the bench - he will be happy enough with a point from what, on paper at least, appears to be his side's hardest game in the group phase.
United had started in composed manner but all the assurance withered away as the half proceeded and Benfica gained in confidence.
Pablo Aimar pulled the strings, Nicolas Gaitan and Cardozo attempted to take advantage. Both went close, and both were denied by last-ditch tackles.
Eventually the breakthrough came though as Cardozo controlled Gaitan's cross on his chest, before whipping round Jonny Evans and drilling a fine shot past Anders Lindegaard.
After finally being given a chance to transfer some excellent pre-season form onto the competitive stage, conceding United's first goal on enemy territory in this competition since March 2010 was not what Lindegaard would have wanted.
In truth though, the Dane was not to blame. He was one of seven players making their first starts of the season. And it showed.
Even Wayne Rooney was caught up in the general malaise, showing no evidence of being a white Pele as he was booked for clattering Artur.
Antonio Valencia had shown flashes of his old form and forced his way to the by-line as he charged onto Rooney's return ball at the start of the second half.
Once there, he opted to fizz a cross into the six-yard box rather than provide Giggs or Rooney with a cut-back.
Park did cut the ball back, but not far enough for Rooney, whose brilliant dummy enabled Giggs to get into the box but Artur repelled the veteran on this occasion.
If all this gave the impression of United being in charge, it was a misplaced theory.
Benfica remained dangerous and Lindegaard produced the best save of the match to deny substitute Nolito before Emerson fired wide.
Valencia and Darren Fletcher lasted 67 minutes of their first appearances of the season before former Sporting Lisbon winger Nani and Javier Hernandez were introduced.
If those changes could be put down to fatigue, the decision to swap Fabio with Phil Jones appeared solely to stem the flow of Benfica attacks as Lindegaard again did well to deny Gaitan.
Gradually though, the fire subsided from the home side, allowing United to claim their point.
|Benfica||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|5||Shots on Target||2|
|8||Shots off Target||2|
UEFA Champions League
Wed 14th Sep - Group A
Man City1 - 1Napoli
Villarreal0 - 2Bay Munich
Wed 14th Sep - Group B
Lille2 - 2CSKA Mosc
Inter0 - 1Trabzonspor
Wed 14th Sep - Group C
Basel2 - 1Otelul Galati
Benfica1 - 1Man Utd
Wed 14th Sep - Group D
Din Zagreb0 - 1R Madrid
Ajax0 - 0Lyon
UEFA Champions League Group A
UEFA Champions League Group B
UEFA Champions League Group C
|1||Paris St Germain||6||13|
UEFA Champions League Group D
|3||FC Viktoria Plzen||6||3|
UEFA Champions League Group E
|4||FC Steaua Bucuresti||6||3|
UEFA Champions League Group F
UEFA Champions League Group G
|2||Zenit St. Petersburg||6||6|
UEFA Champions League Group H