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Hernanes to the rescue as Brazil beat nine-man Belgium

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 7 Aug 2008

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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 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.

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 resiliant Belgium defence

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

Brazil captured the Olympic silver medal in 1984 and 1988 and the bronze medal in the 1996 Games, but have yet to strike gold, and the team knows expectations in their football-obsessed homeland are high.

They looked lively in the opening 15 minutes, pressing the attack but it was Belgium who 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 niggly incidents that the referee did well to keep a lid on as wild tackles flew.

But clear-cut opportunities were few and far between.

Ronaldinho showed flashes of his old brilliance as he recovers from a dip in form last season that saw him offloaded by Barcelona to AC Milan, but he lacked the extra yard of pace that made him so dangerous.

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.

Brazilian coach Dunga started with Werder Bremen's Diego and Schalke's Rafinha, a day after the German sides won an appeal against FIFA's insistence that all players aged 23 must be released by their clubs.

It paved the way for the players to be recalled home although the sides subsequently said they could stay providing Brazil pays their wages.

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