Braga's Europa Conference League campaign on the brink after a 4-0 defeat to Fiorentina

Braga had a night to forget at the Quarry where they suffered a 4-0 defeat to Fiorentina in the UEFA Europa Conference League knockout round first leg.

Artur Jorge's side showed some promise in the first half before Luka Jović opened the scoring on the stroke of half time.

Vítor Tormena was sent off in the 55th minute with Fiorentina showing no mercy and taking full advantage.

Jović bagged his second goal five minutes later with Arthur Cabral coming off the bench, his first goal a thing of beauty before slotting the ball into the bottom corner in the 90th minute.

Fiorentina in control

Fiorentina fired the first chance of the contest, the ball falling kindly for Luka Jović who hit an acrobatic effort straight at Matheus.

The Italian club were playing patient football, probing for opportunities particularly down the left wing where captain and left back Cristiano Biraghi was finding plenty of open space.

Biraghi delivered a cross that fell to Giacomo Bonaventura, his shot deflected wide by André Horta before Rolando Mandragora drilled a shot over the bar from the resulting corner.

Fiorentina’s high press was making it hard for Braga to hold onto the ball and advance it into attacking positions.

Matheus inexplicably gave the ball to Riccardo Saponara on the edge of the 6-yard box, the goalkeeper saved from an embarrassing moment when Saponara slipped over before he could shoot. The chances kept coming for the Italian club, Jović heading Biraghi’s cross straight at Matheus.

Braga show some promise

Braga finally got into the game in the 27th minute when they won their first corner.

Iuri Medeiros whipped the ball in and found Sikou Niakaté in point blank range, the centre back heading straight at Pietro Terracciano. Víctor Gómez was next to deliver a dangerous cross into the box, Abel Ruiz heading into Nikola Milenković before firing the follow up wide.

Luka Jović takes over

The Warriors couldn’t maintain the pressure however, Fiorentina reestablishing their dominance with Jović the spearhead. He saw his shot blocked by Niakaté, Nuno Sequeira making the next intervention before the Serbian could pull the trigger.

Jović’s persistence paid off, rewarded on the stroke of half time when he opened the scoring. His goal came from a predictable outlet, Biraghi’s cross picking out the former Benfica striker who headed past Matheus.

Artur Jorge made one change at the break when he brought on Bruma for Iuri Medeiros.

Tormena sent off

Braga were dealt a big blow in the 55th minute when Vítor Tormena was sent off. Initially booked for a late challenge on Jović, referee Matej Jug watched countless replays on the touchline monitor before upgrading the yellow to a red card.

Uroš Račić was immediately sacrificed for Paulo Oliveira.

Floodgates open

Sofyan Amrabat squeezed the ball through to Riccardo Saponara which sucked Matheus off his line, Saponara’s teasing ball across the face of goal converted at the back post by Jović.

It was threatening to spiral out of control for Braga who were understandably deflated at being a man and two goals down. Jorge tried to provide a spark in the 68th minute when he introduced Álvaro Djaló and Simon Banza for Ricardo Horta and Ruiz.

Four minutes later he was forced into another change when Al Musrati went down injured and was replaced by André Castro.

Cabral rubs salt into the wound

Vincenzo Italiano made his first change in the 75th minute when Arthur Cabral replaced Jović.

It proved to be an inspiring move with the Brazilian striker putting on a show four minutes later, a fantastic piece of individual skill that originated from a long throw. Biraghi launched the ball into the box, Cabral taking two top class touches before smashing a volley past Matheus.

Italiano went for the kill in the 82nd minute when he brought on Antonin Barak, Jonathan Ikoné and Christian Kouamé. By that point Braga were wanting to tap out, but more horror was coming their way.

Fiorentina’s fourth goal came courtesy of a brain explosion from Niakaté, the defender’s pocket picked by Ikoné who selflessly steered the ball into the path of Cabral who found the bottom corner.

Game to forget

Braga overcame a slow start to get back into the contest midway through the first half, but that’s about as good as it got on an ugly evening at the Quarry.

Artur Jorge’s side have suffered two 5-0 defeats against Sporting CP in Lisbon this season, but Braga haven't suffered a four goal defeat at home since Pizzi inspired Benfica to a 4-0 in September 2019.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and when Vítor Tormena received his marching orders in the 55th minute, the best possible outcome appeared to be going to Italy with a single goal disadvantage.

The 4-0 deficit is surely too much to overcome in the second leg, Braga’s Europa Conference League campaign all but over which will allow them to concentrate on the Primeira Liga and Taça de Portugal.

By Matthew Marshall at Estádio Municipal de Braga