Balogun, Aribo, Bassey go down in Portugal

Abel Ruiz’s clinical first-half strike gave Braga a deserved advantage in this UEFA Europa League quarter-final tie.

Braga made their dominance count to earn a 1-0 win against Rangers in their UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg.

Key moments
25′ Ricardo Horta shoots against a post
40′ Abel Ruiz fires Braga ahead
78′ Allan McGregor beats André Horta effort behind.

Rangers had won both legs of these sides’ previous meetings in 2020 and the visitors made a bright start without testing home goalkeeper Matheus. Perhaps buoyed by their opponents’ struggle to find a cutting edge, Braga grew in confidence and began to dominate, Ricardo Horta sending a low shot against a post.
The dangerous striker and his team-mates continued to make inroads inside the penalty area, and it was little surprise when Abel Ruiz positioned himself expertly in the 40th minute to deceive his markers and measure a masterful strike beyond Allan McGregor.

With his men toiling to combine possession with incision, Giovanni van Bronckhorst made three attacking changes, only to see Rodrigo Gomes warm McGregor’s gloves as Braga applied greater pressure, continuing their productivity from the flanks. The Primeira Liga side then threatened a second when McGregor took no chances with a fierce André Horta effort, beating the shot around a post.

Nuno Tavares, match reporter

Carlos Carvalhal said before the match that both teams are different from the ones who faced each other two years ago – and that proved the case tonight, with Braga taking a deserved lead ahead of their trip to Ibrox. Rangers tried their best to avoid defeat, but their defensive mistakes in the first half were just too much for a team who missed top scorer Alfredo Morelos.


Carlos Carvalhal, Braga coach: “I’m happy with the result and very proud of my team, but we deserved a bit more from the match. We played really well in the first half, then after the break Rangers respected us a lot more and it was more difficult to play. We are winning at half-time in the tie and I’m confident we will prevail next week, although it is never easy to play at Ibrox.”

Abel Ruiz, Braga goalscorer: “I think we played really well tonight. I managed to score the goal, but the whole team deserves praise for all the work we did against strong and very physical opponents. We should have scored more than one goal in the first half. These kinds of matches are always hard and Rangers defend very well. It will be a difficult match in Scotland and 1-0 is not a great advantage, but we will go there to win.”

André Horta, Braga midfielder: “We fully deserved this win. We worked hard. Rangers are a very organised team with a very physical and very direct game, but also with good players. We cancelled out their strengths and wanted to get the goal as quickly as possible, because we know that when teams open up and we have space, we always create more danger.”

Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Rangers coach: “It’s a one-goal difference; next week we play at home, with the ground behind us. We have to win by a margin of two to go to the semi-finals; we know what the task is ahead of us.”

Scott Arfield, Rangers midfielder: “At times it felt like a basketball game in the first half. We take it back to Ibrox only 1-0 behind and feel like we can win this tie. Every time you come up against this calibre of teams and players, you know it’s going to be difficult. They tested us with their movement and overloading out wide. We don’t feel as if it’ll be the same game in the second leg.”

Key stats
Braga have won five of their six UEFA Europa League home matches this season, drawing once.

The Portuguese side have scored in 11 of their last 12 games in the competition.

Their home record in the knockout phase of the competition is now eight wins from 14 matches (D2 L4).

Abel Ruiz has scored the opener in each of his side’s last three Europa League fixtures.

Rangers lost against Portuguese opposition in UEFA club competition for the first time in 14 matches (W6 D7).The defeat also ended an unbeaten six-game run for the Scottish side away to Portuguese clubs (W2 D4).

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