Turning 18 for most of us heralds exams and the wonders of (legal) alcohol consumption.
Mile Svilar faced a much more dramatic examination tonight as he lined out for Benfica in their Champions League match against Manchester United. In doing so, the 18-year-old broke Iker Casillas’s record as the youngest goalkeeper to ever play in the competition.
Unfortunately for the young Belgian, a commendable baptism of fire descended into farce.
Svilar coped well for the first hour of the game at Estádio da Luz, as a misfiring United featuring the likes of Lukaku, Mkhitaryan and Rashford struggled to breach the Portuguese side’s defence. The Red Devils started making inroads in the second half, culminating in a Marcus Rashford free kick 64 minutes in.
The Englishman whipped the ball into the opposition box, but the resulting cross came nowhere near his teammates (though he may have been attempting to catch the youngster out). Svilar went to stand over the goal-line while keeping the ball in his outstretched hands to avoid conceding a goal, but appeared to have misjudged the distance.
The ball was correctly adjudged to have crossed the line, giving the visitors an unexpected 1-0 lead.
Though a howler on the biggest stage in club football isn’t the best start to life in the Champions League, one hopes that the incident doesn’t adversely affect Svilar, who clearly has a bright future, and that he views it for what it is – a learning experience.