CFR 1907 Cluj enjoyed a dream start to their third UEFA Champions League group stage campaign as a well-worked tactical plan put paid to SC Braga's hopes, the Portuguese side's former forward Rafael Bastos scoring twice.
Featuring eight players who were either Portuguese or had previously played in the country in their lineup, Ioan Andone's Railwaymen knew exactly what to expect and executed their contain and counterattack strategy to perfection. Rafael did the damage, a pair of composed first-half finishes sealing a memorable Group H victory back at his old club.
Home coach José Peseiro said his team would have to be at their best to claim three points from a first competitive meeting between these sides. Despite dominating possession for large parts of the opening period, however, the Arsenalistas always looked vulnerable to a breakaway and it was from one such move that they fell behind in the 19th minute.
Leading a typical burst down the left, Modou Sougou took a pass from Rafael and played the return for the striker to run clear and take his time to stroke low past Beto. Pantelis Kapetanos ought to have punished the hosts further only to pull his effort wide with the goal at his mercy.
That miss mattered little moments later when Rafael skipped past Nuno André Coelho's challenge on the left and cut inside, capitalising on a fortuitous deflection off Rúben Micael to direct his shot into the net.
Braga's only previous UEFA Champions League group stage campaign had opened with a 6-0 reverse at Arsenal FC in 2010/11 and their first-half display threatened a repeat, though they regrouped at the interval. A menacing cross from substitute Hélder Barbosa found Micael whose close-range attempt was parried by Mário Felgueiras. The CFR goalkeeper was well positioned again to block Micael's first-time strike shortly afterwards.
The Romanian champions had lost Sougou to injury at half-time and with him went much of their attacking menace, although they did pass up another golden chance to confirm their second UEFA Champions League away win. Kapetanos found space behind the Braga defence yet could not escape Ismaily, who rebuffed the Greek's successive shots.
While Éder subsequently headed narrowly over at the other end, CFR were closing in on a fine victory. There was just one late period of Braga pressure to withstand, Felgueiras diving to touch behind Michael's low effort and dealing with Custódio’s header from the resulting corner. Then Andone's side really could celebrate.
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