Posted on August 4, 2012
By Michael Lewis
NEWCASTLE, England — Honduras made Brazil sweat for a good portion of their Olympic men’s soccer quarterfinal on Saturday, thanks to its blood, sweat and tears.
Twice the Central Americans took the lead and twice the Brazilians came back.
Neymar, the 20-year-old superstar in the making, made sure of that, scoring one goal, a penalty kick, and setting up another in a wild and physical 3-2 quarterfinal win at St. James’ Park.
The Brazilians will play the winner of the Great Britain-South Korea match in the semifinals.
The Hondurans, who entered the game with high hopes with one big scalp (a 1-0 win over Spain) under their belts.
They were forced to play the final 57 minutes of regulation time a man down after defender Wilmer Crisanto was sent off for his second yellow card of the match iin the 33rd minute before 42,166 fans. Honduras finished the game with nine players after midfielder Roger Espinoza, who had scored earlier, was red-carded for a foul on Oscar in the 90th minute.
As he walked off the field, the St. James’ Park crowd gave Espinoza a standing ovation for his outstanding performance.
Referee Felix Brych had a busy game flashing his cards, which including 10 yellows — six on Honduras — and two reds.
The Hondurans shocked the Brazilians by striking first in the 12th minute. The scoring sequence was started by Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza, who intercepted a Brazilian clearance and brought the ball into the left corner. He outmanuevered a defender and sent a short pass to Maynor Figueroa in the penalty area. The ball popped out and went to Mario Martinez, who looped a shot over goalkeeper Gabriel and into the upper right corner for a 1-0 lead.
Martinez and the entire team raced to the Honduras bench to celebrate with coach Luis Suarez.
It was the first goal scored by a Honduran other than Jerry Bengtson, who entered the game with three goals.
Give Honduras some credit. The Central Americans played a gritty, scrapy physical game. While there was a huge talent gap between the sides — Brazil, after all, had Neymar — they made a game of it.
For the first half hour, that strategy worked before the Hondurans’ physical game caught up to them with a devastating red card on defender Wilmer Crisanto, who came in to the game already walking on egg shells with a yellow card.
Within a 43-second span in the first half, the game started to turn in the first half. First, Crisanto was awarded a yellow for fouling Hulk at midfield in the 32nd minute. Referee Felix Brych of Germany had barely put his card in his pocket that Crisanto fouled again, this time tripping Neymar in the 33rd minute. But this time Brych showed a red, giving the Honduran his marching orders. As Crisanto walked off the field next to the Honduras bench, it appeared coach Luis Suarez was giving him a piece of his mind as though he was pointing toward his head, telling him he should have been smarter on both plays.
The Brazilians equalized on a play in which the Hondurans could have cleared the ball in the 38th minute. Goalkeeper Jose Mendoza came out of his net on the right side of the penalty area to get to a ball that Hulk managed to get to first. Hulk sent the ball into the goalmouth. Jose Velasquez had an opportunity clear the ball with Arnold Peralta standing beside him, but Leandro Damiao managed to slip in and slide the ball home for a 1-1 deadlock.
However, it was the Hondurans, despite being a man down, struck yet again, three minutes into the second half. Midfielder Roger Espinoza, who plays for Sporting Kansas City in Major League Soccer, was the goal-scoring hero this time, firing a low shot from the right side of the penalty area
into the lower left corner of the net for a rather unlikely 2-1 advantage.
Only a minute later, Honduras gave it right back as Jose Velasquez fouled Leandro Damiao in the penalty area for a penalty kick.
Neymar took it and fired a shot into the upper left conrer past Mendoza for a 2-2 tie. in the 51st minute.
Neymar was in the middle of Brazil’s next goal in the 60th minute as he did a quick one-two with Leandro Damiao, who launched a 13-yard effort into the lower left conrer and a 3-2 advantage.
Photo: Roger Espinoza scored for Honduras against Brazil. Andy
Categories: Central America, Honduras, Olympic Qualifying