Gil Vicente’s European debut ended in a morale boosting 1-1 draw against Riga in the UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round first leg.
The Latvian club deserved their half time lead after Douglas Aurélio’s opener, but the second half was a different story.
The Gilistas dominated after the break, Juan Manuel Boselli equalising with a brilliant goal before Ali Alipour spurned a glorious chance to snatch victory in the 90th minute.
PortuGOAL's Matthew Marshall breaks down a promising performance from the Portuguese club in Latvia.
Riga take their chance
Gil Vicente started well in Latvia with Mizuki Arai looking lively down the left wing. Riga were making their own inroads down the same avenue, repeatedly targeting Danilo Veiga.
The opening goal came in simple fashion the 17th minute. Mikael Soisalo found himself in open space on the right wing, Henrique Gomes mimicking a shadow as Soisalo’s cross was met by Douglas Aurélio who executed a simple finish.
Raivis Jurkovskis shot narrowly wide from distance with Riga’s high press making it difficult for Gil Vicente to promote the ball into attacking zones.
Juan Manuel Boselli had the final chance in the first half, trying his luck from long range with the ball sailing over the bar.
Tale of two halves
Whatever Ivo Vieira said to his team at half-time worked a treat with Gil Vicente starting with intent, dominating possession and playing the game in Riga's half. Lucas Cunha’s luscious long ball picked out Fran Navarro who volleyed wide.
Andrew was on hand to save a close range effort from Marcelo Torres but the action soon returned to the opposite end, Boselli’s free kick deflected over the bar.
Vieira made a double switch in the 60th minute, the ineffective Pedro Tiba replaced by Matheus Bueno in midfield and winger Arai making way for Kevin Villodres.
Gilistas kept pressing for an equaliser which deservedly came three minutes later. Bueno picked out Boselli outside the 18-yard box, his sublime first touch setting up a volley that the Uruguayan winger smacked into the top corner. Top class.
Navarro’s shot from a tight angle was saved by Nils Puriņš before the Spanish striker made way for Ali Alipour.
Riga had half a chance in the 84th minute, Ngonda Muzinga’s cross met by Yuri Kendysh who was unable to direct his header on target.
Boselli tried his luck from distance before Gil Vicente missed a glorious chance to seal it at the death. Vitor Carvalho released Alipour who only had Puriņš to beat, the Iranian striker unable to get it done as Riga’s goalkeeper diverted the ball wide.
The match in Latvia was a significant moment for Gil Vicente, their first match in a European competition after finishing fifth in the Primeira Liga last season.
With manager Ricardo Soares joining El Ahly and three influential players leaving the club in Zé Carlos, Pedrinho and Samuel Lino, it was important that Ivo Vieira and his new club got off to a promising start.
There wasn’t much cause for optimism at half-time, but Vieira’s half-time team talk did the business as the Gilistas bossed the second half, deservedly equalised and were a whisker away from taking all three points.
Riga manager Sandro Perković made two substitutions in added time with his team under the pump, a clear indication he was ultimately satisfied to avoid defeat.
There should be a significant turnout in the second leg at Estádio Cidade de Barcelos next week, where Gil Vicente will fancy their chances of finishing the job and advancing to the play-off round.
Juan Manuel Boselli was used sparingly by Pako Ayestarán last season. Scoring in his opening two Primeira Liga appearances for Tondela, he scored three more in the Liga and netted three goals in six appearances in the Taça De Portugal where they reached the final.
His lack of game time highlights the incompetence of Pako Ayestarán, a manager who won’t be returning to the Primeira Liga any time soon.
To further highlight the turmoil in Tondela, Boselli was sold to Gil Vicente for a reported fee of just €50k. It appears to be brilliant piece of business from the Gilistas, the 22-year-old playing a leading role in Latvia and capping it off with a goal to remember.
Gil Vicente (4-3-3): Andrew - Danilo Veiga, Lucas Cunha, Rúben Fernandes, Henrique Gomes - Pedro Tiba (Matheus Bueno 60’), Vitor Carvalho, Kanya Fujimoto - Juan Manuel Boselli, Fran Navarro (Ali Alipour 81’), Mizuki Arai (Kevin Villodres 60’)
Unused substitutes: Brian Araújo, Tomás Araújo, João Barros, Emmanuel Hackman, Giorgi Aburjania, Boubacar Hanne
Head Coach: Ivo Vieira
[1-0] – Douglas Aurélio 17'
[1-1] – Juan Manuel Boselli 63’