Udinese have taken a 1-1 draw away from Braga after Dusan Basta’s header was wiped out by an Ismaily blockbuster in the Champions League play-off.
The Friulani were eliminated at this stage last year by Arsenal, but hoped to finally make it back into the group phase of the Champions League. Luis Muriel was out injured, Emmanuel Badu only fit for the bench and Paulo Vitor Barreto left off the UEFA list, while Braga missed Maximilian Haas, Paulo Cesar, Yazalde and Eder. Between them these sides had nine Brazilians, a Colombian and an Argentinean in the starting line-ups.
Braga were aggressive early on, particularly from free kicks when Mossoro moved up to use his strength in the air. The home side burst forward on the counter with Lima, but Danilo kept his cool and stuck to his opponent, forcing a corner.
On 20 minutes Paulo Vinicius had a great chance when set up by a dummy outside the box, but Zeljko Brkic leapt to fingertip the curler out from under the bar.
It was a crucial save, as moments later Udinese took the lead in Portugal. Antonio Di Natale curled a free kick in from the right flank for Dusan Basta’s header into the ground, which bounced past a flailing Beto.
Brkic smothered a long-range Hugo Viana strike, while Di Natale only scuffed a Giampiero Pinzi pull-back from eight yards.
There was a scare on 33 minutes when Udinese fans feared they had given away a penalty for a push on Alan. However, the referee and linesman awarded a free kick against the Braga man, as replays showed he had pulled Willians’ shirt and then dragged them both down.
Hugo Viana had another couple of attempts from distance, but they failed to trouble Brkic.
The Friulani were giving away a few too many free kicks, as in the first half Di Natale, Pinzi and Mehdi Benatia all went into the book.
After the restart Brkic came tearing off his line to palm a dangerous Helder Barbosa cross off the feet of Lima. Beto went further, running well outside his own penalty area when Di Natale sprung the offside trap, needing an acrobatic overhead kick to clear.
Ismaily had an audacious strike from 20 metres that swerved viciously to skim the near post. Beto also parried from Diego Fabbrini.
Udinese had a wonderful opportunity on the counter with Pinzi’s looping cross, but first Roberto Pereyra’s header was flapped out from under the bar, then Di Natale’s follow-up was beaten away at the near post.
Braga had a great deal of possession, but were ineffective in the final third with Ruben Micael’s soft lob well over.
They had been trying long-range shots all night and one of them paid off spectacularly, as Ismaily unleashed an unstoppable rocket from all of 25 metres that flew in off the underside of the bar. Brkic had absolutely no chance of getting his fingers to that, as it was right in the far top corner.
The wind was in Braga’s sails, so Francesco Guidolin introduced Badu and Brazilian summer signing Maicosuel for Pereyra and Fabbrini.
Ruben Micael’s header was straight at Brkic, but moments later the same player hit a screamer from distance that the former Siena goalkeeper flew to fingertip round the upright.
Lima stung Brkic’s palms at the near post and Hugo Viana’s strike was charged down as Braga poured forward in the final minutes.
The second leg is at the Stadio Friuli on August 28 and Udinese have an away goal to count on.
Sporting Braga 1-1 Udinese
Scorers: Basta 23 (U), Ismaily 68 (B)
Sporting Braga: Beto; Leandro Salino, Douglao, Paulo Vinicius, Ismaily; Custodio, Hugo Viana; Alan (Ruben Amorim 85), Mossoro (Jose Luis 87), Helder Barbosa (Ruben Micael 58); Lima
Udinese: Brkic; Benatia, Danilo, Domizzi; Basta, Pinzi, Willians, Pereyra (Badu 72), Armero (Pasquale 85); Fabbrini (Maicosuel 72); Di Natale
Ref: Stark (Ger)
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