As Nani and Manchester United FC look ahead to a matchday six showdown, Axel Witsel says "anything is possible" for SL Benfica who booked their place in the round of 16 with a 2-2 draw.
Article top media content
Axel Witsel said "anything is possible" for SL Benfica after their reward for playing with such elan against Manchester United FC at Old Trafford was a 2-2 draw and a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage.
"We came here for the victory," the 22-year-old Witsel told UEFA.com, "but without winning we've gone top of the group. We played a great match." Indeed, unrelentingly positive, they forged ahead on three minutes when Nicolás Gaitán forced Phil Jones to put into his own goal.
Efforts from Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Fletcher overturned the lead – an obvious source of disappointment for Witsel – but Pablo Aimar's 61st-minute equaliser earned a point. "We could have won it but seeing as we didn't, the most important thing was not to lose," said the Belgian international, whose side advance as they now have a superior head-to-head record against United and FC Basel 1893.
Not that Benfica are settling for that: with a home game against FC Oțelul Galați in a fortnight, the target is to secure outright the top spot they current share with United on nine points. "I don't think it'll be a problem," said Witsel. "We'll aim to finish first in the group and after that it's the knockouts and we'll see – anything is possible."
Goalscorer Aimar was similarly effusive. "Against this huge team we played an almost perfect match to come away with a positive result," the playmaker said. "[From matchday one] we knew they liked to boss possession and are quick turning defence into attack so we had to battle for a point. Our main objective was to qualify, and now we have done that we hope to finish top."
United winger Nani, playing against Lisbon rivals from his Sporting Clube de Portugal days, rued the English team's start. "We were unlucky with the first goal," he said. "Everyone was in a good position and it just came off one of our players. We played good football and had chances to score more goals. We deserved more."
It leaves United needing a point at FC Basel 1893 on matchday six to progress at the Swiss club's expense, though Nani says they fear nothing: "We're used to this kind of pressure and we have enough experience to go to Basel and win."