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SC Braga's dream of a first appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage remains on course after a second-half goal from Matheus gave them a slender victory against Sevilla FC in their play-off first leg.
On the back foot for large parts of the opening half, Domingos Paciência's team responded after the break. The majority of the crowd inside the Municipal Stadium were in ecstasy just after the hour thanks to Matheus's close-range header, which sets up an intriguing encounter when the teams meet in the return on Tuesday.
Prior to the game Paciência warned his players of the serious threat posed by last season's fourth-place Liga finishers and it was not long before Sevilla were demonstrating their attacking strengths. Jesús Navas jinked his way down the right before lifting a precise pass in for Luis Fabiano, whose header bounced back off Felipe's upright.
Antonio Álvarez's side continued to press as the half progressed and thought they had taken the lead when Frédéric Kanouté turned in Diego Capel's centre only for the effort to be ruled out for offside. Looking to reply on the counterattack, Braga were largely frustrated by disciplined opponents yet a chance to take the lead did arrive just before the interval when Alan's defence-splitting pass found Matheus through on goals but the Brazilian could not direct his shot past Andrés Palop.
The momentum quickly swung back in favour of the visitors after the restart with Luis Fabiano this time providing Navas with a pass that allowed the attacker to muster a shot which flew high and wide of Felipe's near post. Buoyed by the home support, Braga began to demonstrate the class they showed when eliminating Celtic FC in the last round and on 62 minutes they took the lead. Substitute Silvio's accurate cross from the right found Paulo César, whose header on target was clawed out by Palop but only onto the head of the onrushing Matheus, who nodded in.
The hosts continued to attack, Lima squeezing through on the left before warming the hands of Palop and the 27-year-old went close again towards the end with a shot that clipped the Sevilla crossbar. It mattered little for Braga, though, who will take a narrow advantage to Spain for the return.
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