Braga are the people's choice against Benfica, claims coach
Thursday 05 May 2011
Braga's home stadium is known as the Quarry and the least fashionable of Portugal's three Europa League semi-finalists will be trying to dig out another narrow win tonight to reach their first European final.
Braga face a 2-1 first-leg deficit against compatriots Benfica in their semi-final and, provided they can keep a clean sheet for the eighth time in nine games at home in Europe this season, one goal will be enough for a ticket to Dublin for the final on 18 May. The winners of the semi-final tie will almost certainly face the Portuguese champions Porto, who take a 5-1 first-leg win to Spain's Villarreal for the other semi-final tonight.
Since parachuting into the knockout stages of the competition from the Champions League, Braga have beaten Lech Poznan 2-1 on aggregate, Liverpool 1-0 and Dynamo Kiev on away goals.
Their distinctive stadium owes its nickname to the sheer wall of rock which forms one of the four sides to the ground, where Braga have won six out of eight European games this season. Braga have won only one major trophy, the Portuguese Cup, but they finished runners-up in the league last season and their coach, Domingos Paciencia, says their rise has captured the public's imagination, even if they are not the prettiest team to watch.
"People are happy about what Braga have been doing, there is great affection for this team," he said yesterday. "Last season was very important. I felt, apart from the Braga fans, that a nation was supporting Braga... I felt Braga united many people. The image is that of a warrior-like team, a team that works, and also helps the people to remember what football can be.
"A team that works can have success that leaves me with pride in a certain way, for being the leader of this team and for feeling that these fans, in this city, are living through unique moments in their history. It makes me proud that I am the one that is leading this team."
Benfica have suffered a frustrating season domestically, finding themselves outclassed by Porto in the league and also losing out to their great rivals in the cup semi-final. Their coach, Jorge Jesus, said that, even if they reach their first European final since 1990, it will not rescue their season. "It doesn't save the season. What I wanted was for Benfica to be champions again in the league," he said.
Villarreal will be attempting to become only the fourth team to overturn a four-goal first-leg deficit in European competition.
Latest in Sport
Have Liverpool found the next Luis Suarez? Reds give trial to Uruguayan wonderkid Juan Manuel Sanabria
UFC 190 Ronda Rousey vs Bethe Correia: What time does it start and where can I watch it, plus Mauricio Rua vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Manchester United 2015/16 kit unveiled: Morgan Schneiderlin leads the Adidas campaign as new shirt is launched
Ashes 2015: Mitchell Johnson goads England fans as Edgbaston crowd shows little mercy for Australia
- 1 Windows 10: man updates PC, wakes up to find porn slideshow on repeat
- 2 The 'world's most beautiful vagina' has been debunked by science
- 3 John Green schools morning show hosts after awkward interview with Cara Delevingne
- 5 Bulletproof armadillo puts Texas man in hospital after shot bounces off hard shell
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband