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Simão Barbosa's saving grace lifts Braga

Having blocked a spot-kick to help leave Braga within an ace of the final, Simão Barbosa told UEFA.com: "Saving a penalty is the closest thing for a keeper to scoring a goal."

Braga keeper Simão Barbosa saves a penalty from Volodymyr Matsuta (No6)
Braga keeper Simão Barbosa saves a penalty from Volodymyr Matsuta (No6) ©FPF

Tournaments hinge on such moments. With the score at 1-1 53 minutes into Braga's game against Yednyst Plysky, the Ukrainian side were awarded a penalty when captain Daniel Simões was penalised for handball.

Volodymyr Matsuta stepped up to the spot, but his effort was brilliantly clawed away by the hosts' 24-year-old goalkeeper Simão Barbosa. Within a few minutes, Daniel Simões atoned for his error, heading what proved to be the winner at the other end, with that goal propelling Dito's side to within an ace of Tuesday's final in Barcelos. A draw against Württembergischer FV on Sunday and the celebrations can begin.

"Many goalkeepers have said before and it is true: saving a penalty is the closest thing for a keeper to scoring a goal," Simão Barbosa told UEFA.com. "It is a huge pleasure to prevent your team from conceding, even more so in a game like this because if we had conceded we would have had a mountain to climb. It was a very important moment, but only one in a long list."

Yednyst had taken a tenth-minute lead against Braga, and posed a significant threat throughout, playing for their tournament lives following a 2-0 opening-day defeat by Württemberg. Daniel Simões's goal put Braga ahead, but they faced a tense finale following Manuel Gonçalves's dismissal.

"From the moment we went a man down, they put a lot a pressure on us and had a lot of possession, but I think we always had things pretty much under control," insisted Simão Barbosa, who plays for Portuguese third-division side FC Amares. "Sometimes you don't need the ball to control a game. We kept our cool and did what we needed to do. Now we are one step closer to the final and that's just amazing."

The final step could be a huge one, with Braga needing to avoid defeat against Württemberg if they are to have a second chance at the final, which a previous Braga side lost to Central Moravia back in 2001. A point would put them in the showcase in Barcelos, but a draw is not what Simão Barbosa wants. "Our aim is to win every single game and that won't change on Sunday," said the No12. "Football is all about winning and I won't have it any other way."

The dream is still to win the tournament. "It would be an amazing feeling to lift the Regions' Cup trophy and all the players are motivated by thinking of that," said the goalkeeper, adding of his potentially tournament-deciding save: "We are doing everything we can in order to be successful and I'm thrilled to have had the chance to help my team-mates in a very difficult situation."