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Rui Pedro hat-trick ends Braga's hopes at CFR

CFR 1907 Cluj 3-1 SC Braga
Rui Pedro's 27-minute hat-trick kept the home side's Group H campaign afloat as an eventful first half ended the Arsenalistas' European season.

Rui Pedro hat-trick ends Braga's hopes at CFR
Rui Pedro hat-trick ends Braga's hopes at CFR ©UEFA.com

A UEFA Champions League round of 16 place remains a possibility for CFR 1907 Cluj following a frenetic Group H encounter in which Rui Pedro completed a 27-minute hat-trick.

In a dizzying first half, former FC Porto trainee Rui Pedro demonstrated unerring finishing, but SC Braga never seemed out of the game even after they were reduced to ten men when Douglão was sent off. However the defeat, and Galatasaray AŞ's 1-0 win against Manchester United FC, spelled the end of Braga's European campaign, while CFR are sure of a UEFA Europa League berth and will forge on in Europe's top club competition if they can better Galatasaray's result on matchday six.

CFR pierced the Braga defence within seven minutes, Rafael Bastos back-heeling Felice Piccolo's ball down the middle for Rui Pedro to chase and steer past Braga goalkeeper Beto. Eight minutes later a long Mário Felgueiras throw propelled CFR towards a second, Modou Sougou being given a free run into the box and Rui Pedro beating a cluster of Braga defenders to the ball to finish.

Within two minutes No30 was on the scoresheet again, this time for Braga. Rúben Micael sprayed a ball out right for Alan to streak in and slip through goalkeeper Felgueiras's legs for his fifth goal of the group stage. Fragile at one end but fearsome at the other, CFR stormed back and Sougou outpaced the Braga rearguard again on the right, pulling the ball back for Rui Pedro to complete the first treble for a Romanian side in the UEFA Champions League.

Braga still did not look beaten and Custódio's header was cleared off the line by Ivo Pinto. However, José Peseiro's team had more to contend with when they were reduced to ten men before the break, Douglão shown a straight red card following an incident with Ionuţ Rada.

Two goals and a player to the good, Paulo Sérgio's CFR sat back after the interval, seeking to pick the Portuguese outfit off on the counter. Felgueiras was nonetheless furious when Alan was given time to lash a long-range effort just off target, though all would have been forgiven had Beto not saved from Rafael Bastos at the other end.

Braga substitute Mossoró had a goal chalked off for offside, and CFR's wait for assurance was prolonged when Camora had the misfortune to strike both of Beto's posts within the space of a couple of minutes. The whistle brought relief for the Railwaymen, who now head for Old Trafford knowing the game is not over.