Man U eliminated from Champions League

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Benfica rallied to beat Manchester United 2-1 on Wednesday and reached the last 16 of the Champions League.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:47 IST
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Benfica rallied to beat Manchester United 2-1 on Wednesday and reached the last 16 of the Champions League. The loss means the English club will be out of the competition's knockout stage for the first time in 10 years. Paul Scholes gave United the lead after six minutes, but Geovanni leveled the score and Beto put Benfica ahead before the break. Benfica finished with eight points in Group D for second place, two ahead of United. Villarreal won the group and also advanced. Manchester United didn't even qualify for the UEFA Cup, granted to the third-place finisher, as it finished bottom of the group behind French team Lille, which lost 1-0 to Villarreal Wednesday. Fresh trouble "We were desperate to win this match. That brings anxiety,'' Ferguson said. The upset win brought fresh trouble for Alex Ferguson. The United manager is trying to pull his team out of a patch of bad form that cast doubt on his future at the club. The Red Devils recorded just one win and scored only three goals in its six Champions League group games. Ferguson, though, insisted he was staying at Old Trafford. "I've got a job to do at this club, rebuilding. I'll carry on with that,'' Ferguson said. With the outcome of the group depending on the last round of games and needing a win in Lisbon to be sure of advancing, the Red Devils fielded an attacking line-up, playing Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs on the wings with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney in the middle. The aggressiveness paid off after six minutes as Scholes netted his second goal in five days. Gary Neville broke down the right flank and hit a low cross into the area where unmarked Scholes, who ended his 22-game goal drought against Portsmouth in the Premiership last weekend, bundled the ball over the line from short range. Benfica, trying to salvage its European run but weakened by the absence of five key players through injury, pushed back and, 10 minutes later, right-back Nelson struck a powerful cross into the area for Geovanni to equalize with a diving header. United lacked cohesion between midfield and attack and its strikers began to lose their composure as they became easy prey for the Benfica defense. The home side, urged on by a crowd of 60,000, had the momentum and Beto's 34th-minute shot from outside the area took a deflection off Scholes and put the Eagles into the lead. Historic victory Benfica coach Ronald Koeman said the result was historic. "Benfica is a big club with a lot of history, but what we did here today will go down as a great thing,'' Koeman said. Ferguson replaced Giggs and Ronaldo with Louis Saha and Ji-Sung Park after the interval and United found an extra spark, its best chance coming after 70 minutes when Saha challenged 'keeper Silva for a cross and the ball fell loose deep inside the Benfica area. Rooney began to maraud around the Lisbon side's area, too, but substitute Joao Pereira had a golden opportunity on the break at the other end, although he fired his shot into the side- netting. United also brought on Kieran Richardson for John O'Shea in the tense final minutes but to no avail. (AP)

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