Honduras' Roger Espinoza, right, vies for the ball with Brazil's Hulk, left, during a quarterfinal men's soccer match at St. James' Park in Newcastle, England, during the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
NEWCASTLE, England | Brazil narrowly escaped with a 3-2 victory over 10-man Honduras on Saturday, twice coming from behind to advance to the semifinals of the men’s Olympic soccer tournament.
Honduras got goals early in each half but couldn’t 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.
Leandro Damiao scored the winner in the 60th minute after clearing a defender near the penalty spot after a pass from Neymar.
Earlier, Mario Martinez put Honduras ahead in the 12th minute before Damiao equalized in the 38th. Roger Espinoza — a graduate of Aurora’s Regis Jesuit High School — then gave Honduras the lead again in the 48th, but Neymar evened the score by converting a penalty kick in the 50th and Damiao kept Brazil on track for its first Olympic gold medal 10 minutes later.
“I’m glad I got the goals because we were in trouble for a while there,” Damiao said. “It was nice that we came through when we needed the most. We are still alive.”
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.
Brazil will play its semifinal on Tuesday in Manchester against South Korea, which beat host Britain on penalties later Saturday.
Brazil’s men’s soccer team has won four Olympic medals, but none of them were gold. It earned silver in 1984 and 1988, and bronze in 1996 and 2008. It is the only significant soccer competition the five-time world champions haven’t won.
Brazil was 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 were hurt when Crisanto was sent off for a hard foul on Neymar. He had received his first yellow card just a few seconds earlier in a what 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 was 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 with Martinez, who shot it into the far corner.
Damiao equalized 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, clearing a defender just outside the area and firing a low shot that hit the net 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 beat Honduras goalkeeper Jose Mendoza from the spot.