- Braga hosted Napoli in a UEFA Champions League clash on Wednesday night
- Napoli came in as favorites, having won the 2022/23 Serie A title
- The visitors earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory in a thrilling Champions League encounter
Napoli secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory in an intense encounter against Braga in their Champions League opener at Estadio Municipal. Giovanni Di Lorenzo opened the scoring just before half-time in a match where star player Victor Osimhen could have easily netted a hat-trick. His missed opportunities almost cost Napoli the win, as Bruma headed home an 84th-minute equalizer. However, Sikou Niakate’s own goal in the 88th minute allowed the Italians to scrape a victory, despite a late scare when Pizzi hit the post in stoppage time for the hosts.
The game was an attacking spectacle, with Napoli dominating possession, but it was Braga who created the first chance in the third minute when a swift counter-attack saw Ricardo Horta’s shot deflect narrowly wide.
Napoli should have taken the lead in the fourth minute when Jose Fonte gifted the ball to Osimhen on the edge of his own penalty area, but the Braga goalkeeper, Matheus Magalhaes, made a brave save.
Magalhaes had to make two quick saves within seconds in the frantic opening 10 minutes. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia delivered a teasing free-kick that Osimhen headed against the far post, with the Braga goalkeeper diving across to keep the ball out.
Despite colliding with the woodwork, Magalhaes wasn’t finished. Kvaratskhelia’s deflected cross looped up for Di Lorenzo, who headed toward the bottom corner, but the home keeper managed to tip the effort onto the post and wide.
Alvaro Djalo fired a 20-yard free-kick off target for Braga, while Osimhen continued to be frustrated, heading over before finally beating Magalhaes, only to see his shot hit the crossbar.
At the other end, Abel Ruiz headed just wide before Napoli defender Leo Ostigard, who had replaced the injured Amir Rrahmani early in the game, had a nervous moment as his last-ditch tackle almost resulted in an own goal.
Napoli was awarded a penalty in the 33rd minute when Osimhen collided with Niakate. Still, VAR rightly overturned the decision, as the striker initiated the contact when trying to score from a parried Magalhaes save.
The breakthrough finally came in stoppage time when Matteo Politano’s cross found Osimhen, who nodded the ball back to Di Lorenzo, who brilliantly volleyed home off the underside of the crossbar.
The second half was equally frenetic but lacked the final third quality. Osimhen fired wide from long range, and a golden opportunity fell to Horta in the 63rd minute, but he inexplicably missed the target from 15 yards.
The home side pushed forward in search of an equalizer, but Piotr Zielinski side-footed wide from six yards in the 72nd minute.
Braga’s persistence paid off when Rodrigo Zalazar delivered a brilliant cross that Bruma guided into the net in the 84th minute, deservedly leveling the score. However, disaster struck for Braga four minutes later.
Fonte could only partially clear a dangerous attack, and the ball fell to Zielinski inside the area. He sent a ball across the six-yard area, which Niakate diverted into his own net.
Despite this setback, Braga continued to press forward. Horta curled narrowly over in the 90th minute when a corner fell to him just inside the area, and it appeared that Pizzi had snatched a last-gasp draw.
Bruma played the ball to Pizzi on the left wing, who drew in two defenders before firing a shot from a tight angle at the near post. The shot hit the inside of the woodwork but somehow stayed out as Napoli held on for all three points.