Manchester United are on the verge of reaching the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in four years after beating Benfica.
The Red Devils, who earned their place by winning last season’s Europa League, have claimed four victories from their four Group A games and need just a point from their remaining two games to progress.
Anthony Martial, who provided a threat from the left with his trickery and pace, earned a penalty when he was tripped by Douglas, but the Frenchman had his spot-kick kept out by Mile Svilar.
Belgian goalkeeper Svilar also twice saved well from fellow countryman Romelu Lukaku, but a mistake on his debut in the competition in the previous game contributed to United’s narrow victory and he gave the hosts a helping hand again.
Ex-Benfica midfielder Nemanja Matic’s powerful shot struck the foot of the post, but ricocheted off the unfortunate Svilar – who had dived to save the shot – and into the net. Full-back Daley Blind added a second from the penalty spot.
The Portuguese champions were much improved from the reverse game and offered more of an attacking threat, forcing David de Gea into two excellent saves in each half.
The home goalkeeper denied forward Diogo Goncalves’ curling effort towards the top corner and low shot across goal, while he also gathered Raul Jimenez’s long-range drive.
Mexican Jimenez intercepted Eric Bailly’s lazy cross-field pass deep inside his own half, but his shot cannoned off the post.
A tale of two keepers
The night was going quite well for Benfica and goalkeeper Svilar when he dived low to his right to palm away Martial’s penalty after 15 minutes to become the youngest goalkeeper to save a spot-kick in a Champions League match.
He also thwarted Lukaku by stretching to his near post and standing tall when the striker closed in one-on-one – the former Everton man has now extended his goalless run to six games in all competitions after netting 11 in his first 10 for the club.
But Svilar’s unlucky moment on 45 minutes means he also became the youngest player to score an own goal in the competition.
At the other end, Benfica could not find a way past Spaniard De Gea, who has now kept 11 clean sheets in 15 games this season.
United’s number one made a total of five saves in the match, the best of which came from Goncalves’ rising strike in the first half, springing high to his left to tip the ball to safety.
More to follow.