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Manchester United on verge of knockout stages after 2-0 win

Manchester United on verge of knockout stages after 2-0 win

31/10/2017 at 21:42Updated 31/10/2017 at 23:31

Champions League, Group A – Manchester United 2 (Svilar 45’ Blind 78’) Benfica 0

Manchester United moved to within touching distance of the Champions League knockout stages with a comfortable 2-0 win over Benfica at Old Trafford.

United rested Marcus Rashford going into the game, starting him on the bench, and gave Scott McTominay another start after a promising appearance against Swansea last week.

Anthony Martial won, and then missed, a penalty early in the first half and it was only when Nemanja Matic's shot bounced in off Mile Svilar at the end of the half that United were able to relax.

In the second half, an Eric Bailly defensive mistake saw Raul hit the post from inside the box as the home side struggled to find any rhythm. With a quarter of an hour remaining, substitute Rashford had an immediate impact, winning a second penalty that Blind drilled home confidently.

United's win took them to 12 points to top the group, six points ahead of both Basel and CSKA Moscow, but are not yet certain of qualifying.

TALKING POINT

Manchester United miss Paul Pobga more with each match: Since his injury, United's attack has become noticeably blunted. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have no space to attack, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Romalu Lukaku seem isolated, and there is no link from deep in midfield to the attacking midfielders. They got the win courtesy of an unusual goal, but with Chelsea and other, more important games looming, they are struggling to find their early season form without their injured midfieder.

MAN OF THE MATCH

David de Gea (Manchester United): On the two occasions he was asked to do something out of the ordinary, he repelled dangerous shots from goal at crucial times for United. Not for the first time, United have recorded a clean sheet not through any special resilience and organisation, but because they have the best goalkeeper in the world. Against better teams he may not always be able to rescue them.

MATCHCAST: FULL MATCH STATS AND COMMENTARY

PLAYER RATINGS

Manchester United: De Gea 7, Darmian 6, Smalling 5, Bailly 5, Blind 7, Matic 7, McTominay 6, Mata 6, Lingard 6, Martial 6, Lukaku 6. Subs: Herrera 6, Mkhitaryan 6, Rashford 7.

Benfica: Svilar 6, Douglas 6, Rúben Dias 6, Jardel 6, Grimaldo 6, Fejsa 6, Samaris 5, Pizzi 6, Salvio 6, Diogo Gonçalves 6, Raúl 6. Subs: Eliseu 6, Seferovic 6.

KEY EVENTS

14' - PENALTY! Mata finds Martial in the box, who tricks Douglas and two other defenders, and as Douglas trips Martial, he also handballs it as he falls to the ground, giving the referee an easy decision.

15' - SAVED! Martial strolls to the spot kick and drills a low shot towards the corner that Svilar saves brilliantly.

45' - GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Benfica. Svilar scores an own goal - Matic receives the ball in space, and from 30 yards out he blasts a shot past Svilar, it smacks against the post and bounces back off him, and back into the goal

65' - RAUL SHOT - Bailly rolls a pass to Smalling, and Raul can steal in to take it off the two of them. He skips towards goal, and a last-second intervention from Smalling sends the shot crashing against the post and wide.

77' - PENALTY! Rashford sprints down the left, holding off defenders as he goes. Foolishly, Samaris nudges him over the in the box and concedes a clear penalty.

78' - GOAL! Manchester United 2-0 Benfica. Blind scores - He fires a penalty down the middle of the goal, Svilar dives to his left, and that is it, settled.

KEY STAT

Manchester United are undefeated in their last 38 home games.

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