'Little' Braga humble Celtic

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Regardless of what they achieved last season, many have immediately written off Braga’s chances of fighting for the title this season or even reaching the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.

It may be a bit harsh for a team that ensured the title race went down to the last day, but the weight of expectations make things harder and many teams suffer from the so-called ‘second-season syndrome’.

Just like any other team that performs above their regular standards, Braga lost a few players: Eduardo was lured to the trattorias in Genoa, Evaldo left for Sporting and André Leone returned to Brazil.

They also lost sporting director Carlos Freitas to Panathinaikos this summer, which is why drawing Celtic instead of the arguably easier BSC Young Boys or KAA Gent so early in the season was perhaps a little bit unfair.

The Scots have a lot of experience in the competition, but if Neil Lennon’s men thought they were going to have an easy day at the office, they couldn’t have been any more wrong.

Little, unknown Braga not only outclassed them, but also gave them a football lesson at the beautiful AXA stadium and earned a result that, while not enough to secure passage to the playoff round of the competition, is quite a big step towards that goal.

With a commanding 3-0 lead – courtesy of goals from Alan, Elderson and Matheus – Braga are just a whisker away from knocking out the historical Glaswegian side.

Naysayers will say ‘You know, they scored from set-pieces and will find Celtic Park a very hostile environment‘. Celtic fans may even be thinking of the time they were hammered 5-0 away to Artmedia Bratislava, only to come very close to turn the tie around with a 4-0 victory in the home leg back in Glasgow.

Unlike the Slovakian side though, Braga are a more sophisticated team and the result was not merely a by-product of luck, form or high morale. The players have quality, the team knows how to play good football and more than that they seem up to the task.

They’re still some way off getting inside castle – the actual Champions League – but part one of their plan was executed flawlessly.

Goal of the match

Brazilian forward Matheus had already took the corner that allowed new boy Elderson to score on his official debut for the club, but he decided to take matters into his own hands in the 88th minute when he hammered a 35 yard screamer that gave the keeper no chance. A sublime goal that added some gloss to the score-line and sent the Braga faithful ecstatic.

Food for thought

People talk about whether Villas-Boas’s Porto and Paulo Sérgio’s Sporting can dethrone Benfica, but what about Braga? Manager Domingos Paciência remained at the helm of the club and they made astute moves in the market. But the question is; can they be considered contenders this season?