Bristol Rovers suffer injury time defeat to Champions League hopefuls S.C. Braga
Food for thought as Bristol Rovers give Champions League hopefuls S.C Braga a tough match.
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Braga - who are in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and reached the Europa League group stages - won with an injury-time goal from nine-time Portuguese international Ricardo Horta. Aaron Collins had given the Gas the lead but Castro quickly responded, and then Jevani Brown put the Gas in front once more, but Macedo levelled proceedings.
Rovers' team continued to get younger in age after a series of substitutions at half-time and throughout the second period, and their young guns could not hold on as Braga netted late on. It was a good workout for Rovers, who managed to breach the goal of a side that finished third in the Portuguese top-flight last season.
SC Braga proved a tough test from the off and a sloppy pass from Grant Ward allowed Roger Fernandes a chance to shoot but his effort flew wide of the post.
Rovers counted themselves lucky as a pass split through the defence bypassing James Wilson, but Rodrigo Macedo failed to take his chance.
Against the run-of-play, Rovers took the lead with neat build up play. Sam Finley fed through Luke Thomas and he was able to play in Aaron Collins for a close-ranged finish.
Braga weren’t behind for long however as they equalised shortly after. James Connolly could not stop the cross and Castro was on hand to score on the volley.
James Belshaw was forced in to action again as Luca Hoole failed to keep to his man and Pizzi forced him to tip his half-volley behind. Castro from the resulting corner had a free header but failed to direct his effort on target.
The Gas were guilty of being loose in possession and gave Braga a chance to shoot but Belshaw made a save to keep the score level.
Rovers retook the lead in spectacular fashion through summer signing Brown. A foul had been made in the build-up but an advantage was played and he hit a powerful shot past the keeper.
In search of a quick reply, Braga went near from a corner with Castro’s header going past the post. They did find their equaliser in comical fashion as Hoole and Belshaw exchanged passes, and the keeper cheaply gave the ball away to Álvaro Djaló who found Macedo to stroke home into an empty net.
Early in the second-half, Rovers had the post to thank for keeping them in the game. Jed Ward played the ball to an opponent by accident and Andre Horta’s tight-angled shot came off the woodwork.
Braga continued to threaten from set pieces, and troubled Ward’s goal when Vítor Tormena rose highest, but couldn’t keep his header down. Another chance shortly followed with Rodrigo Gomes’s shot flying past the post after Goncalo Cardoso couldn’t get close to his man.
A series of substitutions took place amid a few drinks breaks, and Rovers team became younger. Braga had a chance from an indirect free-kick from the box after Jerry Lawrence played the ball back to Jed Ward, but after Horta laid the ball off to Bruma, his low shot was well saved by Ward.
Pressure continued to come Rovers way and Simon Banza headed over the bar after a cross came in to the box. Nine-time Portuguese international Horta put further pressure on Ward’s goal as he curled a low shot past the post a few minutes out from the final whistle.
Rovers’ defence could no longer hold out and conceded in stoppage-time Bruma fed in the ball to Rodrigo Gomes and he found Horta from close range to prod home against a youthful defence.
Bristol Rovers first-half XI: James Belshaw, James Connolly, James Wilson, Luca Hoole, Luke Thomas, Sam Finley, Grant Ward, Ryan Jones, Aaron Collins, Scott Sinclair, Jevani Brown.
Goals: Aaron Collins 11, Jevani Brown 32’