Goalscorer Fran Mérida and Hugo Viana sense the last 32 is close for SC Braga following a 5-1 win against NK Maribor, which may have exposed the visitors naivety at this level.
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SC Braga have the UEFA Europa League knockout stage in their sights after a 5-1 win against NK Maribor in Portugal put them level on seven points with Club Brugge KV and their next opponents Birmingham City FC. The result, however, left Slovenian champions Maribor six points adrift at the foot of Group H.
Fran Mérida, Braga midfielder
Of course I'm delighted with my goal but even more so with the fact we won a very important match. We were much better than our opponents and managed a comfortable win, which was very important for our campaign. Whenever I'm given the chance to play, even if for only a couple of minutes like tonight, I will do my best to prove to the coach that he can count on me.
This game, and the next one against Birmingham, will be decisive in the final standings but I think we will succeed and reach the knockout stage. Things got easier for us when we scored two early goals but that doesn't mean we had an easy night out there. Our fans can be certain that we will always give our best to achieve our goals.
Hugo Viana, Braga midfielder
Tonight we finally managed to profit from all the chances we created, and it is fair to say we also had some of the luck that has eluded us lately. We played really well and carved out lots of chances, but then again that was also the case two weeks ago when we drew at Maribor. This time we converted our dominance into goals.
We can now feel a bit more relaxed, but our problems never had anything to do with the quality in our team. There are three sides with seven points and we know that if we beat Birmingham we will qualify for the next round. It will be a difficult match but we will be at home so we are favourites.
Marcos Tavares, Maribor forward
Conceding two goals so early was a huge blow. When you play away you always have to be extra careful in the first ten to 15 minutes because your opponents start the game at full speed and eager to score. We failed to deal with that and we paid the price. We were 3-0 down at half-time and though we managed to get one back, we shipped two more goals at the end.
One point from four games is obviously bad for us but we have to take into account that this is only the second time this team has played in a group stage. Maybe we still lack experience at this level.