Vitinha’s first half hat-trick wasn’t enough to earn Braga a vital victory in the Europa League after an entertaining 3-3 draw against Union Saint-Gilloise.
Anthony Moris failed to handle his swerving strike before Victor Boniface equalised five minutes later.
Vitinha showed his first goal was no fluke, heading home Nuno Sequeira’s free kick and executing a deft left footed finish to extend the lead on the stroke of half time.
Union Saint-Gilloise did well to fight their way back into the contest after the break, Dante Vanzeir winning and converting a corner four minutes after the restart.
The home supporters were loving life at Den Dreef Stadion and their side responded by converting a third cross, Boniface heading past Matheus after meeting Loïc Lapoussin’s dangerous delivery into the box.
All action in Leuven
The pattern of the match was established early on with both teams showing attacking intent. The opener came in the 15th minute after Braga executed a textbook counter attack.
Rodrigo Gomes started the sequence in his first start of the season, the free flowing move ending with Vitinha’s swerving shot bamboozling Anthony Moris who won’t want to watch the replays.
The lead didn’t last long with Union Saint-Gilloise equalising five minutes later.
Victor Boniface got in front of Vítor Tormena to collect Bart Nieuwkoop’s cross, the Nigerian striker turning to make space before firing into the bottom corner.
The Belgian club enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure but were unable to test Matheus.
Vitinha hits a perfect hat-trick before the break
Braga weathered the storm and regained the lead in the 35th minute. Ricardo Horta won a free kick which was sent in by Nuno Sequeira, his teasing ball picking out Vitinha who headed past the stranded Moris.
Five minutes later Braga scored with the pick of the bunch. It was a fantastic team move flowing down the left wing, Ricardo Horta releasing Vitinha once again, the 22-year-old drawing Moris and beating the keeper with a clinical finish.
Víctor Gómez replaced Fabiano at the break, Karel Geraerts switching to a back four with Christian Burgess making way for Loïc Lapoussin.
Union Saint-Gilloise fight back
The home supporters were in full voice at the restart, their team responding by getting back into the contest in the 49th minute.
Dante Vanzeir showed great tenacity to win a corner, the striker finishing it off after meeting Teddy Teuma’s delivery and heading home from close range.
Braga temporarily turned the tide with Gomes and Ricardo Horta testing Moris, but they were unable to stop the hosts who converted yet another cross.
This time it was Lapoussin who was allowed too much time and space, his measured cross into the danger area finding Boniface who got between Sikou Niakaté and Sequeira to head past Matheus.
Union were playing with confidence in Leuven and pressing for a fourth goal. The impressive Lapoussin saw his shot saved, Simon Adingra beating two defenders and forcing another save from Matheus.
Artur Jorge made two changes in the 69th minute when André Horta and Rodrigo Gomes made way for Uroš Račić and Iuri Medeiros. Niakaté then picked up an injury and was replaced by Paulo Oliveira.
Gustaf Nilsson replaced Vanzeir in the 81st minute and was immediately involved, the scorer of two late goals in Braga latching onto a long ball before losing control at the vital moment.
Both teams pressed for victory in an exciting end to the match where a share of the spoils a fair result.
Braga blow chance to steal top spot
The point was celebrated like a win by Union Saint-Gilloise and their supporters, the Belgian club maintaining their three point advantage at the top of Group D with two matches remaining.
Braga will be disappointed to throw away another lead after conceding two late goals in the 2-1 defeat in Braga, this time letting a 3-1 advantage slip on the road. Union Berlin can narrow the gap behind Braga to one point before they clash at Stadion An der Alten Försterei on 27 October.
By Matthew Marshall at Den Dreef Stadion