Gold medal contender Spain bounced from Olympics

Honduras upsets Spain 1-0, sends European favorites home early. Major League Soccer (MLS) player Jerry Bengtson (from the New England Revolution) led his country Honduras to the victory over Spain.

NEWCASTLE, England — Medal favorite Spain was eliminated from men’s Olympic soccer Sunday in another 1-0 upset loss after Honduras forward Jerry Bengtson scored an early goal.

Three players combined for Bengtson’s third of the tournament during a break down the left in the seventh minute. Andy Najar passed to fellow midfielder Roger Espinoza, who fired in a cross as Bengtson cut inside. The striker jumped over a defender to power in a header past Spain goalkeeper David de Gea.

Spain had hoped to hold three major titles at once after winning the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship. But the country will go home without a chance to compete for a medal after it plays its last match against Morocco on Wednesday in Manchester. And if it doesn’t score, it will also return without a goal, after losing 1-0 to Japan on Thursday.

For Honduras, the victory puts the small Central American country into second place in Group D with four points, two behind leader Japan. Few thought Honduras would make much of an impact at the tournament, but the country is starting to look like a dark horse.

Honduras continued to create trouble for Spain in the first half, pressing forward down the left. Midfielder Mario Martinez’s cross nearly found Bengtson in the 21st minute, but Spain defender Alvaro Dominguez slid in to put the ball out for a corner just in time.

Spain’s best first-half chances came from Juan Mata, who volleyed just wide of the far post in the 37th when Jorge “Koke” Merodio fired in a cross from the right. Mata shaved the post in first-half stoppage time after another cross from Koke was flicked onto to him by Francisco “Isco” Roman Alarcon Suarez.

Spain struggled to gain control of the first half and it took 27 minutes for the team to put together a creative move that stood out. Good buildup between Martin Montoya and Iker Muniain led to a weak shot from Adrian Lopez that was easily caught by Honduras goalkeeper Jose Mendoza. Mata followed up as part of another good Spain move two minutes later, but his shot went wide.

But Honduras wouldn’t let Spain dictate the play without a fight. Martinez ran through the middle in loads of space before firing a low dipping shot, which de Gea had to dive down for to save.

Honduras started off the brighter team in the second half as left back Maynor Figueroa’s long-range effort went over the bar. The team nearly scored a second in the 51st when Espinoza’s header hit the post from a cross by Martinez.

But Spain started to pile on the pressure as the half progressed and Honduras was hanging on at the end. Lopez had two chances for Spain in the 55th, but hit the crossbar with one and a second shot rebounded off the Honduras ‘keeper. Iker Muniain hit a post in the 68th, and Mendoza was at full stretch to push out an effort from substitute Rodrigo Moreno in the 71st. Mendoza produced more brilliance, making a double save in the 78th.

Spain had a penalty claim in the 80th when TV replays appeared to show Lopez being pushed over by Arnold Peralta. Spain was denied by the crossbar again in the 82nd with an effort from Rodrigo. After that miss, the crowd chanted Honduras, Honduras to urge them on to the finish.

The match turned ugly at the end, with Spain’s angry and overanxious players surrounding the referee after another penalty claim, which appeared softer than the first. It was a true battle, with Honduras also creating chances, and fans continued to chant the small country’s name.

After the final whistle, Mendoza, carrying the blue and white Honduras flag, ran over with another player to celebrate with fans.

Associated Press Wire Service


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