Preamble Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Benfica v Manchester United. It's a fixture that evokes the faded glamour of the old European Cup, thanks to a couple of meetings in the 1960s. In the first, George Best brought Beatlemania to football with a performance of stunning audacity; in the second, at Wembley in 1968, United reached the promised land by becoming the first English team to win the European Cup. There will be no such excitement tonight, not even if the game ends 14-14 and Sir Alex Ferguson comes out for the second half dressed in a jaunty lycra all-in-one, although it is still the heavyweight clash of a fairly weak group that also includes Basle and Galati.
Not that these two sides come together as equals. Benfica have only reached the Champions League knockout stages once since 1994-95; United have only been eliminated in the group stages once since 1994-95. Both instances occurred in 2005-06, when Benfica put United out with a 2-1 win in the final group game, with Phil Brown's Geovanni scoring one of the goals. Many people felt that Ferguson was finished. In fact he was just starting on his third great United side, the first to achieve sustained success in Europe. In five seasons since that Benfica defeat they have reached three finals, a semi-final and a quarter-final. The road to Munich, where next May's final will be played, starts here.
Team news United make eight changes from the team that defenestrated Bolton on Saturday. David De Gea is omitted amid fears that he can't handle a dry, still night in Lisbon. Rumours that Dimitar Berbatov accidentally stubbed a pencil-thin cigarette in the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson's favourite cat, killing him instantly, are unconfirmed.
Benfica (4-3-3) Artur; Maxi Pereira, Luisao, Garay, Emerson; Ruben Amorim, Javi Garcia, Witsel; Aimar, Cardozo, Gaitan.
Substitutes Eduardo, Bruno Cesar, Nolito, Rodrigo, Matic, Saviola, Jardel.
Manchester United (4-3-3) Lindegaard; Fabio, Smalling, Evans, Evra; Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs; Valencia, Rooney, Park.
Substitutes De Gea, Jones, Owen, Anderson, Berbatov, Hernandez, Nani.
Nobody effs with the Jesus Benfica's manager is called Jorge Jesus, which is as good a reason as any to link to this.
You don't have to be Father Jack Hackett to appreciate the value of ladies playing football. Especially when they are doing it for a good cause. Eleanor Ward is part The Sonics, who are doing just that next Tuesday. If you're feeling generous/pervy you can donate here.
A question Last night, while having one of my five-a-day, I found out that Hoegaarden is actually pronounced Who-gar-den. So now, when I order it, do I ask for Hoegaarden or Whogarden? The former is incorrect, the latter makes you sound like a diabolical snob. What's a pedantic alcoholic to do?
Prediction Benfica 2-1 United.
1 min There is a storming atmosphere in the Stadium of Light. Benfica kick off from left to right. They are in red; United are in blue-and-black hoops.
2 min "I can totally sympathise with your predicament: since living in Germany and learning the language I have a similar problem in the UK with Löwenbräu," says Adam Lord. "Do I say Low-en-brow, which is just wrong, or the proper word Loer-ven-broi - which as you said sounds snobbish!?! Would also be grateful for any tips that other OBOers can come up with!" Watch those exclamation marks, kid.
3 min United's formation is more of a 4-2-3-1 than a 4-3-3, with Giggs playing behind Rooney. Benfica looks more like a 4-2-3-1 as well, with Aimar behind Cardozo. So apart from getting both formations wrong, I'm flying.
4 min A quiet start. United are good at silencing a home crowd in Europe, although it will take them a while to do that tonight. Valencia skins Emerson thrillingly down the right before chipping over a cross that is claimed by the diving Artur.
5 min "Go for the correct pronunciation," says Rai Skrupskis. "At least you'll sound like a sophisticated, educated alcoholic."
8 min A neat one-two between Gaitan and Cardozo ends with Smalling conceding the first corner of the game, on the left-hand side. It's taken by whatever happened to Pablo Aimar, and claimed by Lindegaard.
9 min Valencia spanks high and wide at the near post from a prohibitive angle. His absolute shocker in last year's final was one of the more inexplicable occurrences of the 2010-11 season.
10 min "Not touched a drop myself in four years (after a trip to The Priory) but: surely "pedantic alcoholic" is an oxymoron?" hics Ryan Dunne. "Someone so fastidious that they care about the correct pronunciation of their booze is surely a long way off the Own Brand Vodka with Windowlene Chaser indignities of genuine alcoholism (although, for the record, I pronounced it "Ho Garden", which sounds like something an outdoorsy gangsta rapper might have)."
12 min Nothing much has happened so far. United generally like to play cagily away from home in Europe and it's the same tonight. Giggs and Park have swapped, so now Park is playing behind Rooney.
13 min "RE pronunciation," begins Stuart Steel. "Get a Carling instead, pronounced Car-ling." A foolproof plan apart from one very, very, very minor detail: it necessitates drinking a pint of Car-ling.
15 min Aimar is starting to influence the game. He sparks an attack that eventually ends with Gaitan thrashing over the bar from 25 yards.
16 min Rooney has been a little isolated. It's rare these days for him to play as a No9 rather than a No10, and it doesn't look quite right.
17 min "To be even more potably pedantic, The "G" in Hoegaarden is pronounced as if one is clearing one's throat after chain smoking a pack of Capstan Full Strength," says Paul McCormick. "I got this news from a barmaid in Amsterdam, who should know. By the way, do they still make Capstan Full Strength?"
18 min Maxi Pereira's bobbling cross from the right is miscontrolled by Cardozo, but it falls nicely for Gaitan, charging onto the ball at the edge of the box. He thrashes a first-time half volley that flies just wide of the far post.
20 min This game is pretty boring.
21 min Evans does well to cut out a sly through ball from Aimar, and the ball runs loose to Cardozo, 20 yards from goal. He sweeps it towards goal with his right foot, and Lindegaard plunges to his right to make an ultimately comfortable save.
22 min United's lack of match fitness (more than half the team have not started a league game this season) could be a factor. Benfica do look a little sharper.
23 min "Surely its the Moet thing again," says Michael Hunt. "You wait till someone else has ordered it for you (always wait till your drink has been ordered), then correct the orderer loudly and watch as the ladies in the bar migrate adoringly towards you, amazed by your education. It hasn't really worked for me yet, but its quite difficult to mispronounce Fosters."
GOAL! Benfica 1-0 Manchester United (Cardozo 24) This is a magnificent goal. Gaitan, on the left wing near the halfway line, curved a long angled pass with the outside of his left foot, a glorious pass. Cardozo took it on his chest by the D, dragged the ball past the last defender Evans and then slapped a right-footed shot across Lindegaard and into the far corner. That was such an emphatic goal.
26 min "I was told the correct pronunciation of Hoegaarden involved a throat-clearing noise in the first syllable that should have barstaff ducking for cover to avoid the incoming phlegm-ball, followed by the 'g' being pronounced 'h', leading to 'I'd like a throaty cough hardon please', which is unlikely to endear anyone to people behind the counter," says Robin Hazlehurst. "Or maybe that was a practical joke by those Dutch speakers..."
27 min Rooney is booked for challenging the goalkeeper after the whistle had gone. I'm not sure he heard the whistle, and that seems a bit harsh.
28 min United haven't got going in attack. They are, in approach and effectiveness, unrecognisable from the side that has charmed the pants off English football in the last month. It's all very laboured and cautious. In fact, they look like the 2010-11 United.
29 min "Surely it'd be simpler to use hooliganese and simply point and grunt at a beer tap within your field of vision?" says James Tyler. "Failing that, headbutt the barkeep and steal a bottle of Peach Schnapps."
30 min Rooney heads Fabio's flat cross over the bar from 15 yards. It was no sort of chance.
31 min Aimar clips an overambitious shot high and wide from 25 yards. Benfica are much the beter side.
32 min Evans gets away with a handball on the edge of his own area.
33 min "Surely the only proper course of action open to you would be to change tipple altogether," says David Horn. "The twin horns of your dilemma effectively blunted by a simple switch to gin. Nothing says uncomplicated alcoholism like neat gin."
34 min "You can see now what the new signings + Cleverley have have brought to United watching this game," says Andy Butler. "This is lethargic team of last year, reckon we'll see at least two subs at half time." I think it's partly that, but also it's just an intractable mindset United have away from home in Europe – and one, you have to say, that has been incredibly successful. I'm not a big fan of Rooney up top on his own, though.
36 min Giggs faffs about in midfield, allowing Garcia to break towards the United defence. He has Gaitan in space to the left side of the box, but underhits his pass to such an extent that Valencia can clear for a corner. Eventually Luisao's volley is blocked for another corner, and that comes to nothing. United have had 62 per cent of the possession, surprisingly, but Benfica have done more with their 38 per cent.
38 min Hernandez for Giggs or Fletcher is the obvious substitution to make at half-time, although I suspect Sir Alex Ferguson will leave it until the hour.
40 min Aimar is booked for a cynical foul on Rooney.
41 min Aimar, booked a minute earlier, has a naive hack at Fletcher from behind. Some referees would have sent him off for that, although in truth there wasn't that much in it.
GOAL! Benfica 1-1 Manchester United (Giggs 42) Where did that come from? United have been largely hopeless, but Ryan Giggs has equalised with a storming goal. He collected a pass from Valencia, ran into the D and then blasted a beautiful rising drive past Artur with his left foot. Pick that out. Giggs has now scored in 22 consecutive seasons.
44 min Luisao does very well to head an excellent cross from Giggs behind for a corner. Had he not done so, Park would have had a straightforward headed chance.
Half time: Benfica 1-1 Manchester United Two classy goals have embellished a fairly underwhelming game. See you in 10 minutes.
46 min United kick off the second half from left to right.
47 min Nicolas Gaitan was the most eye-catching player of the first half. I had never heard of him before tonight, but you can read more, if not quite all, about him here.
48 min Valencia, put clear on the right side of the box by Rooney, blasts a low cross through the hand of Artur at the near post, and the ball whistles right across the face of goal.
49 min "I don't believe anyone over the age of 14 would steal a bottle of Peach Schnapps," says Michael Bertin. "And even then, only from their grandmother's liquor cabinet."
50 min United have started the second half with a bit more urgency. They were very sluggish in the first half, particularly in the centre of midfield. Fletcher is nowhere near his best, although that's to be expected after so long out.
54 min Benfica's first decent spell of the second half ends with the offside Maxi Pereira smashing a shot that deflects off one post onto the other. Not that it would have counted.
56 min Aimar gets between the lines and rattles a lovely shot just wide from 25 yards. Lindegaard may have had it covered. Benfica make their first substitution, with Nolito replacing Ruben Amorim. Nolito, who came from Barcelona's B side in the summer, scored in his first five games for the club. He has gone to the left wing, with Gaitan moving to the right.
60 min United are dominating possession, even if they don't look especially menacing. That said, Evra wins a corner off Luisao. It's swung away by Giggs and comes to nothing.
61 min Pereira is booked for a cynical pull on Park, who had intercepted an awful pass from Nolito and was moving down the left wing.
63 min A fine one-two between Evra and Park down the left allows the latter to slip a dangerous ball across the face of goal. It's eventually half cleared to Fletcher, whose shot is smothered.
64 min Giggs almost gets his second. He was found by Rooney on the edge of the box, slither past a couple of defenders and into the box, but then his drilled shot was deflected wide by the legs of the keeper Artur. A good if slightly unwitting save.
65 min Carrick is booked for a cynical foul on Gaitan, with Benfica breaking after a United corner.
66 min A crucial save from Lindegaard keeps the score at 1-1. Benfica broke dangerously through the excellent Gaitan, who got to the edge of the box and then passed the ball firmly across the area, right to left, towards the onrushing Nolito. He tried to pass a first-time effort back whence it came, and Lindegaard got down very smartly to his left to push the ball wide.
68 min Nolito plays a nice through pass for the marauding left-back Emerson, who toebungs an extravagant effort across goal and wide from a tight angle.
69 min An attacking double change from United: Hernandez and Nani on for Fletcher and Valencia. So Giggs will drop into midfield in a 4-4-2 formation.
70 min Gaitan is booked for a scything foul on Evra.
71 min Benfica are playing like the away side, sitting very deep and then bursting out on the counter. Nolito has been dangerous since coming on, and a dangerous through ball towards Cardozo is put behind for a corner by Lindegaard. Nothing comes of it.
74 min A well-struck shot from Gaitan, 25 yards out, is comfortably saved by Lindegaard.
75 min Another Benfica change. Nemanja Matic replaces Pablo Aimar.
77 min Another good save from Lindegaard, who leaps to palm over a nice 20-yard curler from Gaitan. Before the corner, Phil Jones replaces Fabio.
81 min Nani and Hernandez haven't got into the game yet.
82 min A very deep, booming cross from Jones finds Park, who heads it onto Pereira and away for a corner.
85 min A long period of United possession ends with an endearingly diabolical pass from Nani.
86 min A clever header from Nani allows Jones to surge at the Benfica defence, but he takes one touch too many and that allows Garay to block his shot at the expense of a corner.
87 min Nolito should have won the game for Benfica. He ran infield from the left, into a body of United players. Nani's sliding tackle inadvertently gave the ball to Matic, who quickly slipped it on for Nolito, and he screwed a tame left-footed shot into the side netting from eight yards before slapping the turf in disgust.
89 min Cardozo tries to chip Lindegaard from just inside the United half. He overhit it wildly, but it was a good idea because Lindegaard was miles off his line.
90 min There will be two minutes of added time.
Full time: Benfica 1-1 Manchester United That's a good result for United, especially with so many changes to the side. It was a nice enough game, with two very good goals from Oscar Cardozo and Ryan Giggs. Thanks for your emails, night.