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Thursday, 13 February 2014 22:05

Rio Ave beat 10-man Braga to make Taça da Liga final

Rio Ave 2-1 Braga

rio-ave-celebs-20140213.jpgPerhaps it was destiny that the current holders of the Taça da Liga, Braga, were knocked out of this year's competition by a player named... Braga. A spectacular strike from the Rio Ave forward sent the Vila do Conde side into the final.

The first semi-final of the Taça da Liga tonight was a lively and controversial match played on a badly cut-up pitch on a blustery evening. The poor surface and difficult playing conditions did not prevent an entertaining 90 minutes of football.

The first moment of big controversy came midway through the first half as Rusescu's shot was cleared off the line by Rio Ave centre-back Marcelo. The ball appeared to be prevented from entering the net by his arm, but the referee waved away the penalty claims.

Braga's sense of injustice intensified five minutes before the break. Rio Ave forward Braga sprinted clear on goal and tumbled down in the box after brushing past Santos. Whether or not it was a foul was highly debatable and if contact was made it was clearly outside the box, so Braga's players were incensed when referee Olegário Benquerença pointed to the spot and sent off Santos.

Hassan kept his calm to dispatch the spot kick into the back of the net. To their credit Braga bounced straight back. Romanian striker Rusescu struck a fabulous curling free kick that the diving Rio Ave goalkeeper Elderson did well to touch onto the post. Custódio was on hand to smash the rebound into the roof of the net.

Wingers shine

With no extra time in the Taça da Liga, both sides came out attacking in the second half, with the hosts making their extra man count and dominating for long periods.

Wingers Ukra for Rio Ave and Rafa for Braga were causing their respective markers no end of problems with their trickery on the right flank for their respective teams, and it was from an Ukra cross that Rio Ave re-took the lead. The centre was not properly cleared, and Braga kept his eye on the looping ball before hitting a tremendous volley past Eduardo and into the corner of the net.

There was no way back for the visitors and Rio Ave make the final of the Taça da Liga for the first time. The other semi-final between FC Porto and Benfica has been delayed as the Liga investigates Porto's alleged misdemeanour in delaying their decisive victory over Marítimo in the group stage. If Porto are found guilty of purposely delaying the start of the match to gain an advantage over Sporting, the Lisbon club could replace the Dragons as Benfica's opponents in the semi-final.

As for Rio Ave and Braga, the two adversaries will go at it again in the semi-final of the Portuguese Cup later in the season.


Comments (2)
@jon / usa
2 Friday, 14 February 2014 09:14
Tom Kundert / Lisbon
Hey Jon,

I agree. The big three really missed a trick in not picking up Rafa after his amazing season in the 2nd tier last season. Braga have got a real gem on their hands.

Jon, could you drop me a line at portugoal[@]portugoal.net

Cheers!
Tom Kundert
Rafa Silva
1 Friday, 14 February 2014 03:35
jon/usa
Rafa Silva is getting better and better with every game. The kid has been in fantastic form of late for an average Braga side. He's extremely quick, strong technically, intelligent with the ball, and clever with his movement. His maturity/decision making in particular has improved leaps and bounds since the start of the season.

I am sure Paulo Bento has been monitoring his progression closely. With injuries to the likes of Nani, Vieirinha, and Bruma, Portugal currently lacks quality back-up options on the wings. Rafa is more of a lively, mobile #10 than an orthodox winger, but he has primarily been utilized as a left-sided forward in a 4-3-3.

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him get called-up for the upcoming friendly against Cameroon. He has certainly done more than enough to warrant one.

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