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World Cup 2018

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Home Sport Football European

United reap the benefit of latest Svilar horror show

Man Utd 2 Benfica 0

By Simon Peach

Manchester United are on the brink of reaching the Champions League knockout phase after teenage Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar unwittingly put Jose Mourinho's men on course for another win.

A fortnight ago, the 18-year-old became the youngest goalkeeper to ever play in the competition - an historic night that ended in embarrassment after he misread a Marcus Rashford free-kick and carried the ball over the line.

This looked to be a far better night for Svilar after he saved Anthony Martial's early penalty, but misfortune struck once again as Nemanja Matic's shot came back off the post and deflected in off him to set United on course for a 2-0 win wrapped up by Daley Blind.

It leaves United six points clear at the top of Group A with two matches remaining on a night that started with Mourinho taking aim at some supporters in the programme.

"I hope that you enjoy the game more than some of you did against Tottenham," he wrote, having felt Romelu Lukaku did not get the right support and seen his decision to bring on Martial met by some groans.

The Frenchman started this game and saw an early penalty saved by Svilar, but the teenager's hopes of a better night went down the drain when Matic's effort went in off him.

Eric Bailly was perhaps fortunate not to give away a first-half penalty and again breathed a sigh of relief when Raul Gimenez hit the post from his sloppy pass, although Blind's 78th-minute penalty gave United a welcome cushion.

Lukaku had looked set to take the spot-kick only for a confusing late change in taker, with Mourinho celebrating the second by making a chatting gesture in front of the cameras.

United were made to sweat at times, with late replacement Andreas Samaris coming close.

Mourinho's side were struggling to create but were awarded a penalty for handball, and Martial stepped up for the spot-kick only for Svilar to save.

Chris Smalling headed wide from the resulting corner before Benfica came close, with Diogo Goncalves denied by David de Gea.

United recovered well before the break and Juan Mata felt he was fouled in the box, with talented Svilar saving low at his near post after Lukaku showed quick feet and confidence.

The Belgium striker, Mata and Martial all threatened as the hosts pushed for an opener that arrived thanks to a large dollop of luck.

Svilar was helpless as Matic's thumping drive came back off the post and deflected in off his back. The Benfica goalkeeper managed to deny Lukaku a quick-fire second but could only look to the heavens at the half-time whistle.

The Portuguese champions returned strongly from the break and De Gea did well to deny Goncalves.

Bailly almost gave them a gift-wrapped equaliser as Gimenez read his sloppy pass and sent a shot onto the post.

Mourinho turned to Rashford and he earned a penalty after Samaris' challenge.

Lukaku looked set to take the penalty, only for Blind to get the nod and fire home.

Eduardo Salvio's header was saved late on as United continued their 100 per cent record.

Man Utd: De Gea, Darmian, Bailly, Smalling, Blind, McTominay, Matic, Mata (Herrera 68), Lingard (Mkhitaryan 45), Martial (Rashford 75), Lukaku.

Subs not used: Lindelof, Young, Romero, Shaw.

Benfica: Svilar, Dos Santos, Dias, Jardel, Grimaldo (Eliseu 64), Samaris, Fejsa, Fernandes (Oliviera 79), Salvio, Jiménez (Seferovic 74), Goncalves.

Subs not used: López, César, Zivkovic, Cervi.

Man of the Match: Matic

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Gediminas Mazeika (Lithuania)

Belfast Telegraph

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