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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 18 September, 2019

'Lovely touches by the United lads': Keane sympathises with Benfica's teen 'keeper after howler

Keane joined José Mourinho and Romelu Lukaku in offering words of encouragement for 18-year-old Mile Svilar.

Image: EMPICS Sport

Updated at 17.15

LAST NIGHT BECAME the living embodiment of a ‘life comes at you fast’ meme for Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old Belgian the youngest ever goalkeeper to start a Champions League game when he was named in Filipe Vieira’s starting XI for their Champions League group stage tie with Manchester United, breaking Iker Casillas’ record in the process.

Just over an hour later, however, he found himself not so much picking the ball out of his own net, but stunned frozen beyond his own goal-line having committed the grave error which resulted in United emerging from the Estadio da Luz with three points.

It was just his second senior start for the Portuguese side, who remain rooted to the bottom of Group D.

Svilar’s apology to the Benfica fans following the full-time whistle was warmly received, and so too was the conduct of United’s players, some of whom – most notably Svilar’s compatriot Romelu Lukaku – approached the teenager with words and gestures of encouragement.

They were aware of his inexperience, of course: during his post-game interview, Nemanja Matic revealed manager José Mourinho had ordered his charges to shoot on sight and cross the ball at every opportunity to expose any teen angst between Benfica’s sticks.

Speaking on ITV’s Champions League highlights programme, former United captain and current Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane was perhaps more forgiving of Svilar’s error than one might have expected, and went as far as to praise United’s stars for the decency they showed toward the young stopper post-game.

“Obviously, your heart goes out to the young goalkeeper,” Keane said.

“Like, all top goalkeepers – they all make mistakes. It’s how you react after it that will decide what kind of future he’s going to have.

“Big night for him tonight, and yeah, you’d feel sorry for him.

That [United players' gestures] was really nice to see. After the game, you know, listen – really sad. [That's a] lovely touch. He’s a young lad, learning his trade, and unfortunately sometimes you have to learn the hard way, and that’s by making big mistakes in big moments. But that was lovely touches by the United lads, there. Really nice to see.

Speaking to the media following his side’s defeat, the 18-year-old revealed what Lukaku in particular had told him: “Yeah, it was nice,” Svilar said. “He just said that I don’t have to worry, continue to work and it will be okay.”

Mourinho, meanwhile, admitted that he had targeted Svilar’s perceived weakness. He did, however, pay a couple of glowing compliments to the Belgium underage international.

“I knew how good he was and I told the players how good he was,” he told BT Sport.

“But we had stats and information about set pieces, so we needed to make him uncomfortable. So at corners we tried to crowd him and put him under pressure, and from free-kicks we knew he risks a lot. A lot.

Only top ‘keepers risk like he does. We got lucky.

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Glaring error in judgement by teen goalkeeper gifts United victory in Lisbon

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