Brazil edge Honduras 3-2 to reach Olympic semis

Sunday, August 05, 2012    

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NEWCASTLE, England (AP) — Brazil remain on track to win their first Olympic gold in men's football — barely.

Brazil narrowly escaped with a victory against a short-handed Honduras yesterday, twice coming from behind to earn a 3-2 win and advance to the semi-finals of the men's Olympic football tournament.

Honduras got goals early in each half but could not hold on as the Brazilians played with an extra man from the 33rd minute after defender Wilmer Crisanto was sent off with two yellow cards just a minute apart.

Mario Martinez put Honduras ahead in the 12th before Leandro Damiao equalised in the 38th. Roger Espinoza gave Honduras the lead again in the 48th, but Neymar evened the score by converting a penalty kick in the 50th and Damiao netted the winning goal in the 60th.

Espinoza also was sent off in injury time after a foul on Oscar. He got a standing ovation from the crowd as he left the field, as did the rest of the Hondurans after the match ended.

Brazil will play the semi-finals against South Korea, who advanced to the semi-finals after beating host Britain 5-4 in a penalty shootout.

Ki Sung-yueng hit the winning penalty after Daniel Sturridge had missed Britain's fifth spot kick.

The game was level 1-1 after regulation and extra time. Ji Dong-won gave South Korea the lead with a long-range shot in the 29th minute, but Aaron Ramsey equalised with a penalty six minutes later.

Ramsey could have given Britain the lead not long after, but he missed a second penalty given for a handball. .

Brazil's men's team has won four Olympic medals, but none of them was gold. They earned silver in 1984 and 1988, and bronze in 1996 and 2008. It is the only significant football competition the five-time world champions haven't won.

"It was a very difficult match as we expected it was going to be," Brazil coach Mano Menezes said. "The early goals destabilised our team a bit, but I'm happy that the players responded and we could equalise and get the victory to send us to the semi-finals."

Brazil were in danger of becoming the latest medal contender to leave the Olympic tournament after Spain and Uruguay were eliminated in the group stage.

But Honduras' chances nearly ended when Crisanto was sent off for a hard foul on Neymar. He had received his first yellow card just a few seconds earlier, which had already prompted complaints from the Hondurans.

The crowd of more than 42,000 at St James' Park got behind Honduras even more after the red card but Brazil were able to take control of the match.

Honduras's early goal came after Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa was hit while trying to get past Brazilian defenders inside the area. The ball ended up with Martinez, who volleyed it into the far corner.

Damiao equalised when Honduras defenders Jose Velasquez and Arnold Peralta failed to clear a cross from Brazil striker Hulk. Damiao took advantage of the indecision in front of the net and slid feet-first to get the ball across the goal line.

It was Espinoza, who scored just after the second half started, going past a defender just outside the area and firing a low shot that went in near the far post.

Brazil answered immediately, though, when Damiao was brought down inside the penalty area. The crowd and the Hondurans were not happy with the call, but Neymar struck a firm right-footed shot from the spot to beat Honduras goalkeeper Jose Mendoza.

Damiao scored the go-ahead goal after clearing a defender near the penalty spot after a pass by Neymar.

Honduras still had some chances despite playing a man down, mostly on powerful free kicks taken by Figueroa.

"I think we could've done more if we had 11 players the entire match, but there's nothing we can do about it, that's football," Honduras coach Luis Suarez said. "I never talk about the performance of a referee. They can make mistakes against you one day and in your favour the other. I'm happy about how my team played. Even with 11 players it would've been extremely hard."

Meanwhile, Giovani Dos Santos and Hector Herrera scored in extra time as Mexico beat an error-prone Senegal 4-2 yesterday to reach the semi-finals.

Senegal erased Mexico's 2-0 lead with second-half goals from Moussa Konate and substitute Ibrahima Balde, but then turned the ball over twice in extra time to hand Mexico the win in front of 81,855 spectators at Wembley Stadium.

Dos Santos' free kick set up Jorge Enriquez's 10th-minute goal before another defensive blunder by Senegal led to Javier Aquino making it 2-0 in the 62nd.

Konate's tournament-high fifth goal started the rally, but Senegal's impressive rally was ultimately undone by awful defending.

Mexico will at least match their previous best Olympic finish of fourth at their home games in 1968, will play Japan here on Tuesday. Japan beat Egypt 3-0 at Old Trafford earlier yesterday.



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