Portsmouth well beaten by Braga

Portsmouth well beaten by Braga

Sporting Braga 3 Portsmouth 0

Portsmouth took a pounding from Sporting Braga as their bid to reach the UEFA Cup knock-out stages began with a poor performance and terrible result.

Braga fielded five Brazilians in the Group E opener and all their goals were scored by South Americans.

Uruguayan Luis Aguiar fired a fabulous 30-yard free-kick past David James in the eighth minute and Colombian Wason Renteria added a second just after half-time.

Portsmouth conceded a third three minutes from time when Sean Davis steered a right-wing cross against his own post and Brazilian Alan pounced to score from the rebound.

Manager Harry Redknapp looked a depressed figure but he must now lift his troops for three Barclays Premier League matches in seven days starting with Fulham on Sunday – and mighty AC Milan at Fratton Park on November 27.

Portsmouth had reached the group stages thanks to a nerve-testing 2-2 draw three weeks ago just down the road from Braga against neighbouring Vitoria Guimaraes, who, on paper are a superior side to Sporting.

Guimaraes had wiped out Portsmouth’s 2-0 lead from the first leg inside 45 minutes on their own turf and the visitors had to rely on reaching the sanctuary of extra-time before Peter Crouch’s two goals sealed a 4-2 aggregate success.

On that occasion there were nearly 4,000 travelling supporters following the FA Cup winners on their first European trip, but this time the fans were much thinner on the ground and much quieter.

They congregated in one corner, and some appeared to scuffle among themselves at one stage in the first half.

They must have been surprised by the surreal appearance of the Estadio Municipal, which was built for Euro 2004 and features just two high-rise stands along the sides of the pitch and two empty, open ends – one of them jutting out from a mountainous quarry.

No English team had ever previously perished in European action here and in seven attempts Braga had never beaten Premier League opposition home or away.

Yet Portsmouth looked timid and totally lacking in creativity after being stunned by midfielder Aguiar’s sumptuous free-kick early on.

David James appeared to have little chance with the swerving, fiercely-struck set-piece effort which revived memories of three weeks ago in Guimaraes where he was also beaten by a long-distance blast which put the home side 2-0 up on the night.

Just as then, it took Portsmouth a depressingly long time to find their stride, also losing injury-plagued Glen Little who hobbled off after just 21 minutes of only his third start for the side with a pulled hamstring. Later on, Armand Traore went off with a similar complaint.

Crouch was also yellow-carded for a reckless challenge and was frustrated again when his lob forward put Defoe in the clear for once, only for the England striker to blast his shot against the body of brave goalkeeper Eduardo.

Crouch had earlier headed Little’s free-kick too high, but Braga were clearly in the ascendancy with Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin having to do some stretched defending.

Vandinho warmed James’s hands with another stinging shot from distance and Campbell headed over his own bar from another Aguiar free-kick which James seemed slow to come and collect.

But the real killer blow came from striker Colombian striker Renteria who snatched the second goal just two minutes after the break, timing his run perfectly to nip through the centre of Portsmouth’s defence and finish coolly after a smart link between Cameroon’s Albert Meyong and the busy Aguiar.

The visitors had the ball in the net just before the hour when Crouch’s header went in off the body of defender Evaldo after Eduardo fumbled, but the Slovenian referee Darko Ceferin acknowledged an offside flag.

A late Portsmouth rush saw Kanu on for the limping Traore, but Braga could have scored again when Aguiar fired into the side-netting and Redknapp’s team’s discipline appeared to go near the end of a deeply disappointing night.

Alan added the final blow when he slotted in for 3-0 in the 87th minute.

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