Full-time - 92'
2 - 1
18:45 +00:00, September 27, 2005
Old Trafford, England
Benfica gave a good account of themselves and soaked up United second half attacks and scored a superb freekick, but United were not to be denied. Will this be the turning point for United?
Another important goal from Ruud van Nistelrooy has helped United to all three points after a dominant if not utterly convincing performance.
And that's fulltime.
Great stuff from United. Realising that keeping the ball is the most important thing the team spread the ball around. Giggs won it, slipped a ball to Scholes, he found Van Nistelrooy and passing began.
A great interception in the United area by Fletcher prevents Benfica getting a shot on goal.
Can Benfica spoil the party in the two minute of added time?
A half clearance nearly lets in Benfica, but the ball is hooked clear: United living dangerously.
Two minutes to go and Benfica win a corner.
United are still full of attacking: they are pressing the visitors back to stymie any possible late goal.
Marcio Geovanni is brought on for a tiring Benfica.
35 goals in 39 Champioms League appearances for Ruud - a frighteningly good strike rate in this competition.
Ruud taps the ball home after Giggs' corner ricocheted off Ferdinand and Gomes and into the Dutchman's path.
Goal for United!!
Ronaldo intercepts a lazy ball from Fernandes and releases Bardsley who charges forward and wins a corner for United after whipping in a great cross.
Handball given against Van Nistelrooy, who looks mortified at the decision; it's not been his night.
Beto and Nelso link well to bring Pereira into the game: he rips into the middle and passes to Gomes, but the move falters on the return ball.
You sense that United have blown themselves out, the last 15 minutes of remorseless attacking brought no goals and Benfica seem lifted.
A change for Benfica: Off goes Miccoli and on comes Joao Pereira
You have to guess that Moreira is launching long high clearances because Benfica are failing to play through the United midfield, but the lack of heading ability brings that tactic into question. Both Gomes and Beto have failed in the last two minutes. Any new ideas?
O'Shea wins a long and guiless clearance from the keeper and starts the latest United sortie.
Manchester United need to make this spell of possession count or the visitors will be lifted by having soaked up the punishment and could get something on the break.
Fletcher and Scholes combine to release Smith but Nelson shackles him and United are repelled again.
15 minutes to go and you sense that the scoreline could well change
Van Nistelrooy is ruled to have handled the ball in the area - he claims he used his chest to control, but the ref disagrees.
United are labouring. They have all the ball, but are lacking a killer blow, or a killer pass to unleash a clear-cut chance.
United pressing their advantage, but to no avail. Park Ji-Sung looks set to be introduced to the game
Scholes denied again - this time a superb challenge from Luisao prevents a shot being fired.
Scholes is unlucky not to take United back into the lead after flinging himself at a ball across the box. A defender managed to get a touch on the ball and it was just enough to take it away from the United man.
Yet more profligacy Ronaldo who loses the ball. Luckily Beto is equally inept for Benfica; another wasted shot from him spares United.
Nuno Gomes and Miccoli link-up well on the edge of the United area, but great work from Fletcher thwarts the move.
Two great efforts from Benfica from a corner, and twice Van Der Sar was equal to the challenge of dangerous shots on goal. He is becoming United most important player, which tells it's own story...
Yet more wastefulness from Ronaldo; a neat step-over bought him time and room to thread a pass to supporting players, but again he opts to take on another defender and again loses out.
A freekick is wasted by United and the ball is back with Benfica.
Ronaldo buys a freekick after allowing Petit to block his run
Now the home fans open their mouths and we have some chanting and some atmosphere.
The corner is lifted in and Smith takes is well, but loses control before Fletcher stabs a shot over the bar.
A great ball into the area from Bardlsey breaks to Ronaldo who senses glory: he took the ball on the chest and fired a strong volley toward goal only to see his effort fly out for a corner. Would a pass inside to Scholes have been wiser?
Good to hear some songs from the fans; a shame for Fergie that the words are in Portuguese...
United are pressing, like Benfica before the half, clearly stung by the goal. 30 minutes to go and we could have an upset on our hands unless United can make could on their home advantage and slim on-pitch dominance.
Alan Smith gave the foul away for the freekick; and the question has to be asked if the one-time striker has the timing to make the tackles a central midfielder needs to?
Simao whips a superb freekick into the top corner of Van Der Sar's goal. The shot had pace, dip and swerve, a great freekick which the keeper and the wall could do nothing about. 1-1 and game on.
Good stuff from Benfica ended by a Smith foul on Miccoli - yellow card for Smithy and freekick in a dangerous area outside the penalty area
Benfica win a corner which they fail to capitalise on. In fact Luisao gets a yellow card for catching Van Der Sar in the face with a loose hand - seemed a bit harsh, but there you go...
Ronaldo skips past one player and chooses to waste the time and space his skill won him by firing a terrible shot wide, when a pass inside to Smith or forward to Van NIstelrooy was the better option. Grow up Cristiano!
Great ball in from Beto looking for Nuno Gomes, but United snuff out the danger. Again signs that Benfica are still very much in the game and capable of spoiling United's night.
Giggs waits for Ferdinand to lumber into the penalty area before launching the freekick. He need not have waited, the ball hits Rio on the head and bounces out of danger - a waste.
Richardson win a freekick off Beto after an aggressive run down the left.
The ball pings out of the box and out wide to Giggs who fires in a cross which the keeper dives through the box to claim: he missed completely and left Van Nistelrooy unsighted - a lucky escape for Benfica.
Another Brazilian Luisao presses forward but the ball is soon with United who counter quickly and win a corner
United allow too much time on the ball for Benfica and would be punished were it not for a terrible shot from Beto - a shoddy effort from the Brazilian
Nelson, Petit and Beto link-up swapping passes in the centre of the pitch
Ronaldo takes up the ball on the right a fires in a perfect cross, but there is no-one there to make use of it. Frustrating.
We're back underway and Van Nistelrooy making early in roads down the left.
The next 45 minutes are coming up, so keep it here for all the action as it unfolds!
United have not looked their fluent best but have had the measure of the visitors in the main. No boos from the fans will make no difference to Fergie, but the performance will have pleased him. He'll now be hoping his side can close out the game by grabbing at least another.
The Portuguese side have given a good account of themselves and can be rightly upset that the only thing separating the two sides is a deflected goal. They have threatened and look capable of grabbing a goal. But can they?
Rocha and Luisao exchange passes across the back for Benfica as the ref blows for halftime.
Well, United have edged the half, which has been open and entertaining. The deserve their lead, but need to sharpen up or they will concede.
Giggs plays a neat one-two with Richardson and tried to clip his shot over the keeper from a tight angle. Clever effort, unlucky.
Van Nistelrooy with a shameless and ridiculous swandive. Why bother?
Benfica are clearly stung by the deflected goal and want to go into the half level.
Petit is unlucky to see his effort from the corner hits his legs before he can react to the missed clearance.
Corner for Benfica as the visitors try to get back into the tie.
Pathetic! Ronadlo on the opposite flank and from further out tried a shot on goal from a freekick, but his effort was low and cannoned into the wall. Really poor.
Giggs stepped up to the free kick on the right of the box, he was aiming for the top corner and got it thanks to a deflection off the wall. But they all count, as someone once said...
Ronaldo felled by Rocha - freekick in dangerous area outside the area...
Nelson heads the corner half-clear to the edge of the area where Scholes lashes a shot wide of the goal
Petit deflects a Richardson cross out for a corner to United.
Another quick effort on goal by Benfica, this time Fernandes tries his his luck but Van Der Sar had it covered
Beto tries a long-range shot for Benfica but the effort is..., well poor
Smith zips through on goal but is tackled on the edge of the box by Luisao - a vital interception.
Nuno Gomes is unlucky to see a neat passage of interplay in the middle break down.
More decent work from Bardsley who attacks in the Gary Neville role down the right.
Van Der Sar is off his line to claim decent cross and throws quickly to release an attack
Simao and Leo link up down the left channel for Benfica, but Bardsley is in position on the visitors are forced in-field
Benfica boss Ronald Koeman can be rightly pleased so, his side have absorbed the pressure from United and threatened on the break.
Bardsley over-hits a cross and Jose Felipe Moreira in the Benfica goal claims and releases a quick attack.
Giggs ghost past two defenders on the left wing before hoisting a teasing ball into the area; Scholes managed to glance a header but no threat on goal.
0-0, but an open game with 15 minutes or so to the half
Van Nistelrooy ruins a promising move by losing his footing on the slippery turf. Smith won the ball well, passed to Ronaldo who beat two then slipped a ball to Ruud on the right flank, who then slipped. A promising attack.
Leo switches the play from left to right as Benfica probe the United midfield
Handball by Scholes buys Benfica some respite.
Richardson bombs on down the left flank, but with no support he has to turn back, but his pass is terrible and Benfica are swiftly on the attack.
United are pressing - camped out in the Benfica half.
Strange to see Richardson operating as a left back and Smitgh as a central midfielder, but such is the injury problems at United. But, what can the really expect to achieve this season with a makeshift team?
Great tracking-back from Armando Petit who did just enough to deny Scholes a clear chance on goal after a through ball from Ronaldo.
Childhood Benfica fan Ronaldo fires a weak shot across the face of the goal - a few groans from the fans... discontent brewing?
Good chance for Benfica. Simao ran at the United defence, played a one-two pass which created a huge whole in the defence which Simao used to fire a shot which kept low and drifted wide. Tight angle, but should have done better.
Corner for United, Giggs takes: Ronaldo fluffs a touch and Smith gathers and keeps the ball as they try to keep the pressure on
United try to string a few quick passes together infront of the benches, but the triangles are intercepted and Benfica look to set up a move
Salford lad Phil Bardlsey on his Champions League debut fights for a corner, but is denied. A big night for him at right back facing the experienced Simao.
The United fans are in fine voice so far, and no booing... as yet
Manuel Fernandes fires in an awkward cross but Fletcher gathers and clears
Ronaldo fouls Leo in a forward position in the United half
Benfica are playing the game at quite a tempo - not unlike a Premiership game: not subtle, but full of action.
Ruud van Nistelrooy crashes a shot off the crossbar! He gathered a cross from Phil Bardsley with a great first touch before firing a great effort toward goal on the volley on the edge of the box. Nice effort.
Sloppy from United - Fletcher's pass easily cut out and Benfica snuff out the danger
O'Shea does well to win back the ball after a loose pass from Smith
Ronaldo loses the ball on the left after a freekick; Smith having been brought down middle of the park.
Ferdinand soals up some pressure at back before sending a ball wide to Giggs.
Benfica are not to be under-estimated, a technically gifted outfit with pass and skill to spare.
A bright opening from both sides. United looking to stamp their authority on the game, but the visitors are equally fired up.
Great save from the United keeper from the corner. Luisao lept highest to connect with the ball and test United.
Danger for United - nuno Gomes fed a great ball to Miccoli who brings a great save from Van Der Sar. Corner to Benfica...
Free-kick given Benfica's way after a Giggs cross threatened to create a chance in the box for the home side.
United reclaim the ball, Fletcher slips a pass to van Nistelrooy who takes advantage of no marker to fire a shot.
John O'Shea gallops into an advanced left sided position, feeds it in-field to Ronaldo, who quickly loses the ball
Miccoli tries his luck with a shot for Benfica, but his effort fizzes wide of the United goal
Nelson and Ricardo Rocha get a feel of the ball, spreading it across the back as the visitors get a feel of the game
Benfica soaking up some early pressure, again Scholes making problems for the Portuguese
An early chance for United: Richardson fired in a cross from the left flank, Ronaldo touched it on to Scholes on the edge of the penalty area who swung his leg at the ball but fired over. A difficult chance.
And we're underway, after Slovakian ref Lubos Michel blows his whisltle
Tonight's match is an opportunity for Fergie and his charges to answer their critics. But will they? Keep it here to find out, the game is moments away...
It's been an interesting few days for Alex Ferguson. The boos from the fans following United defeat to Blackburn at the weekend will have stung the manager's ears, and in turn his players will have been told what is and what is not acceptable for the Old Trafford club.
And for Benfica: Moreira, Nelson, Luisao, Ricardo Rocha, Leo, Beto, Manuel, Petit, Simao, Miccoli, Nuno Gomes. Subs: Quim, Anderson, Mantorras, Geovanni, Kariaka, Dos Santos, Joao Pereira.
The Manchester United line-up for tonight's game: Man Utd: Van der Sar, Bardsley, Ferdinand, O'Shea, Richardson, Fletcher, Smith, Scholes, Ronaldo, van Nistelrooy, Giggs. And the Subs:
Howard, Park, Miller, Pique, Ebanks-Blake, Rossi, Martin.