Real Madrid 2-1 SC Braga
Goals from Rodrygo and Jude Bellingham were enough to see Real Madrid secure their third straight win of the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League campaign. Madrid did just enough to maintain their 100 percent record and cement their position at the top of Group C.
It was a packed house at the Estádio Municipal de Braga (also known as the quarry for its unique location on the side of a mountain) with just under 30,000 in attendance to catch a glimpse of Los Blancos in action. The match did not disappoint with a resilient Braga side pushing Real Madrid to the finish and nearly securing a historic draw.
This was always going to be an uphill battle for the home side. Real Madrid have set the standard in Europe with 14 Champions League titles, including five championships over the last decade. Braga, meanwhile, have never made it out of the group stage in Europe’s primary competition.
SC Braga were exceptional on the night and had several chances to secure a late draw. Alvaro Djaló, who was born in Madrid, was the club’s standout player. The midfield trio Rodrigo Zalazar, Vitor Carvalho and Al-Musrati all impressed under difficult circumstances.
In the end, however, Madrid’s talent, speed and technical quality were too much for the Portuguese side. Braga fell to their second defeat of the competition and dropped to third place in the group with three points from their opening three matches. Madrid remain top with nine points and hold a three point advantage over Napoli
Early goal from Brazilian striker Rodrygo
Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti opted for an attacking lineup with Rodrygo selected to play alongside Vinícius Júnior and Jude Bellingham. The decision payed off for the Italian with Rodrygo opening the scoring just 16 minutes into the match.
Backed by a boisterous crowd, Braga started the match well and had several chances in the first half, but failed to convert. The club continued to play positive attacking football despite falling behind early. Al-Musrati, Ricardo Horta, Simon Banza and Djaló all had opportunities for the home side in the first half.
Bellingham continues remarkable form
English international Jude Bellingham doubled Madrid’s lead in the 61st minute with a well-placed right-footed shot. The former Birmingham City and Dortmund star had been relatively quiet until that point but reminded us all why Madrid paid over €100 million to secure his signature this summer.
The 20-year-old midfielder had another strong performance on Tuesday night. He has now scored 11 goals in all competitions this season and is one of only two players in the history of Madrid to score in all three of his first Champions League matches for the club.
Vinicius Júnior key to breaking down Braga’s stubborn defence
Bellingham and Rodrygo will receive most of the plaudits for getting on the scoresheet but Vinícius’ stellar performance should not be overlooked. The Brazilian striker was a nuisance on the night with his speed down the left wing creating problems for the Braga defence.
Vinicius provided both assists on the night and nearly recorded a goal of his own with a well-timed run and superb finish in the 82nd minute. Unfortunately for the Madrid supporters, the goal was chalked off for offside after a VAR review.
Braga’s late fightback
Madrid’s celebrations were short-lived with Braga responding to Bellingham’s strike almost instantly with a goal in the 63rd minute. Efficient buildup play down the right side of the pitch ended with Banza providing a perfectly weighted pass for Djaló. The Spaniard opted for power and rocketed a right-footed shot to beat keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and send the crowd into a frenzy.
Manager Artur Jorge called for reinforcements with striker Abel Ruiz and winger Bruma coming on in the 66th minute. The two attacking players had combined for eight goals in all competitions this season.
Diogo Fonseca had a chance to play the role of hero with a close range header that sailed just over the bar. Horta and Ruiz both had golden opportunities to tie the match but a combination of good goalkeeping and poor finishing ensured Real Madrid return to Spain with all three points.
By Sahir Bhojwani