Monday, November 29, 1999

Chile beat Honduras to end 48-year wait

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Chile ended their 48-year wait for a World Cup victory by beating Honduras 1-0 with a fortunate goal in the Group H opener on Wednesday.Winger Jean Beausejour was credited with the winner in yet another low scoring match that hardly set the pulses racing, finding himself on the end a slick attack in the 34th minute.Playmaker Matias Fernandez started the move by splitting the defence with a delightful pass to release Mauricio Isla down the right. His cross was met at the near post by Honduras defender Sergio Mendoza, with Beausejour in close attendance.Mendoza tried to clear the ball but only managed to hit the back of the Chilean with the rebound nestling in the net.It was a fortunate goal but Chile deserved their win and almost added a second in the 64th when a close range diving header from centre-back Waldo Ponce produced a brilliant reaction save from Noel Valladares.Despite their dominance, the South Americans struggled to kill the game off which will concern coach Marcelo Bielsa, whose side will face stiffer challenges from Switzerland and Spain.At times Honduras even looked capable of an equaliser on the counter, with the pacy Edgard Alvarez dangerous on the right flank. However, Ponce and the composed Gary Medel in the heart of the Chile defence helped ensure another clean sheet.The Chileans have now conceded only one goal in their last seven matches, belying their reputation as a side whose strengths lie solely in attack.PRETTY EASY"To be honest it was pretty easy," said Beausejour, when asked about the way his side had defended. "Things didn't get very complicated at the back and there weren't too many problems in clearing the ball."Bielsa will be pleased with the performance of Fernandez, a superbly gifted player who has nevertheless gone off the boil since he moved to Europe three years ago.He created Chile's first chance with a fizzing second minute freekick that just cleared the bar and was at the centre of Chile's most dangerous moves at the Mbombela Stadium.Defender Arturo Vidal should have put the Chileans ahead in the 25th minute when he found himself unmarked from a corner but he headed way over the bar.Chile thought they had doubled their lead late in the game when they had the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for offside.Chile's victory came 48 years to the day after they last won a World Cup match -- a 1-0 win in a third-place playoff against Yugoslavia on home soil in 1962.This is the fifth World Cup they have been to since and in the previous four they played 13 matches without a win.Honduras are still looking for their first World Cup victory. This is only their second appearance at the finals, their first ending without a win in 1982.(Writing by Gideon Long; Additional reporting by Opheera McDoom and Helen Popper, Editing by Ken Ferris)
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