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Report: Braga 1-1 Bristol City

Bristol City kept pace with established European opposition in holding Braga to a 1-1 draw at Estadio Da Nora in Ferreiras.

Luke Freeman put the Sky Bet League One champions in front with a well-taken opener inside eight minutes, but Braga are a slick outfit and would create the bulk of the chances over the course of the 90 minutes.

City ultimately held firm until the 70th minute when two substitutes combined as Joan Roman set up Fabio Martins for an equaliser that had been threatening to arrive.

Rookie goalkeeper Max O’Leary had to be alert to keep out William Pottker’s skidding shot before Freeman took advantage of a mental lapse from Brazilian stopper Matheus to put City in front.

Presented with the ball 25 yards from goal having intercepted a misplaced pass, the midfielder took aim and dispatched an unerring left-footed shot inside the near post from 20 yards.

It would prove a rare sight of goal for Steve Cotterill’s men, but City’s use of the ball in possession was good and left the 2011 UEFA Europa League finalists chasing shadows for long periods of the first half.

But Braga, the highest finishers outside the usual suspects of Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon in last season’s Primeira Liga, had obvious quality of their own, particularly in the form of Portugal international Rafa Silva.

The 22-year-old left Aden Flint winded with a thunderous shot bravely blocked before striker Crislan poked wide from a much more presentable opening.

Crislan was off target again after an impressive run from Silva, by which time O’Leary had been relieved to see captain Santos’ low free kick fly past his right-hand post.

There was a stark contrast at the start of the second period as Braga made seven changes, while the 11 players in red were the same group that started the game.

The Portuguese club continued where they left off – on the front foot – but City remained well organised and a tough nut to crack against a host of fresh legs.

O’Leary’s handling was again faultless in keeping out Pinho and Alan, before the youngster was powerless to prevent Martins converting from eight yards when the ball was laid on a plate.

But City had come through the toughest test of their pre-season campaign still unbeaten – no mean feat against such highly regarded opponents.

Bristol City: O’Leary, Ayling, Flint, Williams (Kelly 84), Wagstaff (Burns 64), Smith, Pack, Freeman, Cunningham (Bryan 77), Reid (Harper 77), Wilbraham.

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