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Braga's Barbosa brings down Birmingham

Birmingham City FC 1-3 SC Braga
Hélder Barbosa scored an early opener and late clincher as the 2011 finalists started their 2011/12 group stage campaign with a deserved victory.

Braga's Barbosa brings down Birmingham
Braga's Barbosa brings down Birmingham ©UEFA.com

Last season's UEFA Europa League runners-up SC Braga made a winning return to the competition with a 3-1 victory over debutants Birmingham City FC.

A goal in each half from Hélder Barbosa and Lima looked to have left Leonardo Jardim's side cruising home, but Marlon King's late goal will serve as warning of Birmingham's qualities to NK Maribor ahead of their trip to Slovenia in two weeks' time. Braga wrapped things up with Barbosa's second, though, and host Club Brugge KV next attempting to take leadership of Group H.

Just three of Braga's starting XI from the May final in Dublin took the field for kick-off but they quickly dented the mood of a passionate St Andrew's crowd, who are witnessing European football this season for the first time since reaching the last four of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup 50 years ago.

After seven minutes Nuno Gomes crossed from the left and Hélder Barbosa swept in a majestic volley from the edge of the area via the underside of the bar. The home side were rocked, and Boaz Myhill had to be sharp to turn a Hugo Viana free-kick around the post soon after.

Chris Hughton's side struggled to effectively control the visitors, who took charge with their crisp passing and fluid movement, and Braga made their superiority count just before the hour. Elderson's deep cross from the left was superbly diverted away from the lurking Nuno Gomes by David Murphy, but Lima was on hand to pick up the loose ball and rifle it high past Myhill.

The home side immediately introduced Chris Burke and Chris Wood in an attempt to regain some momentum and the former made a significant impact, sending in a low ball for King to pull one back on 71 minutes. The impressive Nathan Redmond almost conjured a spectacular equaliser but Quim tipped over his long-range curler, and Barbosa settled matters in the dying moments by thrashing in substitute Carlão's cutback.