Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hernanes scores the match-winner for Brazil

SHENYANG: Ecstatic Sao Paulo midfielder Hernanes rescued Brazil with a late goal as the South Americans opened their Olympic account with a scrappy 1-0 win over nine-man Belgium at the Olympic football tournament on Thursday.

The 23-year-old twisted past a defender with 12 minutes left and unleashed a left foot drive that flew past Belgium keeper Logan Bailly to hand one of the tournament favourites a crucial win.

In another match, Lionel Messi scored on his long-awaited and nearly cancelled Olympic debut to inspire Argentina to a 2-1 victory over the Ivory Coast.

Almost pulled out of the competition by FC Barcelona, Messi scored in the 43rd minute to give Argentina the lead. Sekou Cisse equalized with a powerful header in the 52nd.

But Messi’s shot set up the winner in the 85th, Lautaro Acosta turning the ball home after the Barcelona star’s shot had been blocked by the goalkeeper.
China holds NZ

Nigeria held the gold-medal favourite Netherlands to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday, competing evenly with the reigning two-time European under-21 champion in its Olympic opener and China’s substitute striker Dong Fangzhuo scored a late equaliser to give the host a 1-1 draw against 10-man New Zealand in its opener at the Olympic football tournament.
Taking advantage

The Brazilians made the most of Vincent Kompany being sent off with 20 minutes left for a second yellow card, piling on the pressure to finally prise open the resilient Belgium defence.

Belgium was reduced to nine men with three minutes remaining when Marouane Fellaini joined his teammate for an early shower.

Brazil looked lively in the opening 15 minutes, pressing the attack but it was Belgium which had the first chance when Lille striker Kevin Miralles smartly turned a defender after five minutes only to scuff his shot wide.

Both sides were fired up with several incidents that the referee did well to keep a lid on as wild tackles flew. But clear-cut opportunities were few and far between.
Flashes of brilliance

Ronaldinho showed flashes of his old brilliance but he lacked the extra yard of pace that made him so dangerous. “I haven’t played an official football match for four months. Today was the first official game for me and I am happy to be back,” he said.

The 28-year-old, in the team as an over-age player, had two decent free-kicks from 25 yards in the first period but neither bothered Bailly.

At the other end, Brazilian keeper Renan pulled off a crucial stop with his legs after Miralles was set free, but other than that was hardly troubled.

Brazil came out after the break with more zeal as Ronaldinho caused problems down the left.

His AC Milan teammate Alexandre Pato had a glorious chance to open the scoring 11 minutes after the restart when Ronaldinho outfoxed a defender and whipped over a tantalising low cross.

Bailly got a hand to it, pushing the ball into Pato’s path but he failed to capitalise, leaving it to Hernanes to make sure of all three points. “When I was a child, I always dreamed about the Olympics. Now I have scored a goal and no words can explain my happiness,” Hernanes said.
Late equaliser

Substitute striker Dong Fangzhuo’s 88th-minute header from near the penalty spot went over New Zealand goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley and into the far post, delighting the loud home crowd at the nearly packed 60,000-capacity Shenyang Olympic Stadium.

Midfielder Jeremy Brockie had opened the scoring for New Zealand with a right-footer from inside the area in the 53rd minute, completing Craig Henderson’s pass over the Chinese defence

New Zealand played a man down after Steven Old was ejected for a handball that prompted his second yellow card in the 39th minute.

The results:

Brazil 1 (Hernanes) bt Belgium 0; Argentina 2 (Lionel Messi, Lautaro Acosta) bt Ivory Coast 1 (Sekou Cisse); China 1 (Dong Fangzhuo) draw with New Zealand 1 (Jeremy Brockie); Nigeria 0 drew with the Netherlands 0.

Australia 1 (Ruben Zadkovich) drew with Serbia (Slobodab Rajkovic 1); Korea 1 (Chu Young Park) drew with Cameroon 1 (Georges Mandjeck); USA 1 (Start Holden) bt Japan 0; Italy 3 (Sebastian Giovinco, Robert Acquafresca, Rossi Giuseppe) bt Honduras 0. — Agencies

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