Manchester United FC served notice of their intent to reach a fourth UEFA Champions League final in five seasons as they battled from a goal down to draw 1-1 at SL Benfica.
Óscar Cardozo broke the deadlock midway through the first half with a terrific goal as the hosts chased a seventh consecutive European home win. United levelled three minutes before the break as Ryan Giggs scored a goal just as high on quality, meaning the midfielder has scored in a record 16 seasons in this competition. The best chances in the second half fell to Giggs and Benfica's Nolito as the spoils were shared.
Nicolas Gaitán was the fulcrum of the home side's bright opening, quickly swerving a shot wide after tormenting Fabio. Cardozo then had a sighter with his weaker right foot, saved comfortably by Anders Lindegaard, before getting it right four minutes later to beat the UEFA Champions League debutant with a magnificent strike.
Gaitán inevitably provided the assist, swerving a crossfield pass up to the Paraguayan with the outside of his foot. Cardozo controlled it superbly with his chest, shook off United centre-half Jonny Evans with a touch from his left foot, and planted a diagonal shot into the far corner with his right.
United, fielding seven of the side that started May's UEFA Champions League final loss to FC Barcelona, struggled to get going until Giggs burst on to a short pass from Antonio Valencia and unleashed an unstoppable effort high to Artur's left. The Welsh veteran, 37 years and 289 days young, netted with the Red Devils' first shot on target.
Pablo Aimar flashed a shot across goal ten minutes after the interval, yet the more controlled possession was now United's. Artur pulled off a magnificent stop with his feet to deny Giggs a second of the evening after a Wayne Rooney dummy.
Benfica rallied, and at the other end the excellent Lindegaard dived low to his left to keep out a shot from substitute Nolito, while Gaitán tested the keeper with a curling effort as he cut in from the right. Nolito missed the best chance of all as he stabbed wide from close range in the dying minutes – the sides favourites to advance from Group C had to be content with a point apiece.
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