Shock as Braga are knocked OUT of the Europa League
Braga have exited the Europa League before it had really even begun, going out on away goals in the third qualifying round after a 2-2 draw in Portugal against Ukrainian outfit Zorya.
Braga were in pole position to qualify for the next round after a 1-1 draw in Ukraine, and were the better team for the vast majority of both legs. When in Luhansk, they saw most of the ball and had chances to even take a lead home them, but failed to capitalise on their dominance.
Nevertheless, their 1-1 draw was considered a very decent away result, with the away goal considered an excellent platform to build on for the return fixture.
However, it was a similar tale in Portugal, where Braga were, perhaps unquestionably, the better side, and led their Ukrainian opponents on two occasions but could not hold their lead either time.
Their first goal came in the 65th minute courtesy of a strike from João Novais, but their lead only lasted 5 minutes before Zorya equalised.
Braga were quick to strike back though, thanks to Ricardo Horta, who got Braga's only goal in the first leg, and put Braga's 2-1 up on the night with just 15 minutes remaining.
However, there was always that concern that one Zorya goal would completely change the complexion of the game, and would see Zorya advance at Braga's expense.
And indeed the Ukrainian found the goal they were craving with just 7 minutes of the game remaining, with Karavaev - who was Zorya's goalscorer in the first leg - finding the back of the net. A sucker punch for Braga, who were certainly the favourites to advance in the tie and almost certainly, albeit marginally, deserved it.
However, it wasn't to be and, despite still only being in August, Portugal are left with just three representatives on the European stage. It's a devastating decline on last season, where Portugal had five teams in European competitions all the way up to December.
It certainly comes as a bitter disappointment to Braga, who fall at their first European hurdle despite their heroics of last season where they topped their difficult Europa League group containing Hoffenheim, Ludogorets and Istanbul Basaksehir, and their fans will have been dreaming of a much longer run in the UEFA competition.
The consolation for Braga supporters, however, is that they can now, without Thursday fixtures and Europa League distraction, make a push for domestic glory, with their three rivals for the title - Benfica, Porto and Sporting - all competing either in the Champions League or Europa League this season.
Braga also knew that they would have to face German giants - and last season's Champions League competitors - RB Leipzig in the next round even if they were to progress, an unenviable task that would have likely seen Braga be perceived as the underdogs and would have perhaps been the undoing of Braga anyway. The lack of the opportunity to play one of Europe's finest, however, is also a great disappointment for a side who have been punching above their weight both domestically and on the continental stage over the last decade.