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Benfica back in the hunt

Published: Monday 3 October 2005, 16.18CET
SL Benfica can surge back up the Portuguese table with a win against Vitória SC if they show the form that they produced at Old Trafford last week.
by Simon Hart

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Published: Monday 3 October 2005, 16.18CET

Benfica back in the hunt

SL Benfica can surge back up the Portuguese table with a win against Vitória SC if they show the form that they produced at Old Trafford last week.
SL Benfica can surge back up the Portuguese table with a victory against Vitória SC tonight provided they show the form they produced at Old Trafford in the UEFA Champions League.

Positive points
The Portuguese title-holders have dropped to 12th in the Liga with two wins, a draw and two defeats from their opening five matches of 2005/06, but Italian striker Fabrizio Miccoli knows things will improve if they take the positives from last week's 2-1 loss to Manchester United FC.

'On the floor'
"We have to play as we did at Old Trafford - on the floor - as we have the qualities to play that way," he told uefa.com. "We could have got a good result and were disappointed because we played well and we have to carry on playing that way game after game and then see what happens."

Late blow
Benfica went down to a late Ruud van Nistelrooij goal having looked on course for a point after Simão's superb second-half free-kick brought them level at 1-1. They gave United some uncomfortable moments, however, notably when Miccoli burned Edwin van der Sar's fingertips with a fierce cross-shot.

On the up
Having taken just one point from their first three Liga games, Ronald Koeman's side are on the up and received a further boost when Greek international Georgios Karagounis rejoined the squad for tonight's match - which could bring them to within four points of joint-leaders FC Porto and CD Nacional.

Miccoli settled
In their Champions League section, too, there is room for optimism. Benfica sit second in Group D despite their Matchday 2 defeat, thanks to an opening-night success against LOSC Lille Métropole secured by Miccoli's late strike. For Miccoli, that was the highlight of his time so far at Benfica, whom he joined on loan from Juventus FC in the summer, and overall the Italian international is happy with his contribution. "I've been here barely a month and I have still to get used to things but right now I'd say things have gone quite well."

Second place
The situation is also looking brighter for the Italian's attacking partner, Nuno Gomes, who scored five times in Benfica's two league outings prior to the visit to United. Reflecting on their position in the Champions League, the Portugal forward said: "We're happy we are second in the group. Maybe a draw was the fairest result at Old Trafford but unfortunately we lost the game.

Villarreal await
"Now we have to concentrate on the next game and hope we can get through the group stage," he added. "We have Villarreal [CF] next [in Spain on 18 October] and are expecting a difficult match - they have some great players and we will try to do better than we did last week but every game in the Champions League is difficult."

Last updated: 03/10/05 22.19CET

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