Despite continuing their winless run at SL Benfica, SC Braga's unlikely UEFA Europa League heroes are confident their home form will take them through to a first European final next month.
Striker Albert Meyong and goalkeeper Artur played just once between them in the Arsenalistas' maiden UEFA Champions League campaign, but have stepped in to help prolong the continental adventure following the winter departure of several players, most notably Matheus, whose two goals defeated Arsenal FC in November.
Domingos Paciência's side have matured at a rapid rate, and Meyong said they would not be fazed by their 2-1 semi-final first-leg defeat, with Braga having still beaten Benfica in Lisbon just once in their history, back in 1954/55.
"We are calm," said Meyong. "
We didn't want to lose the match, but it's not so bad because we managed to score an away goal. It's going to help us and we still have every chance of going through. We know that it's still all to play for in Braga."
The sides are used to close encounters, having fought it out for the Portuguese Liga title last season, and Meyong underlined that Braga expected to come under pressure at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica.
"They had their share of opportunities and they scored a couple," he reflected, "but when you talk about Benfica, you're talking about a very good team. I think we came out and did pretty well. The result's not quite what we wanted, but we will make do with it. Like I said, everything's open."
Artur, who has made a considerable impact since previous No1 Felipe returned to Brazilian parent club CR Flamengo, also admitted a tinge of regret. "It could have been better," he said, alluding to captain Vandinho's goal which briefly brought the northern side level.
If we'd have managed to hold on to 1-1 that would have been great, but we know how strong Braga are at home. We're strong enough and have all the support we need to go through to the final."
The 30-year-old was relaxed about the domination of Jorge Jesus' team, adding Braga still had plenty to say in the tie. "Benfica created opportunities a bit better than we did," he said, "but we will have our chances in Braga. We have every confidence that we can manage to do what we need to." And what do they need to do? "Win 1-0," he replied with a shrug and a smile.
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