Chile registered their first World Cup victory in 48 years, defeating Honduras 1-0 in the Group H opener in Nelspruit, South Africa on Wednesday. Jean Beausejour’s first-half goal held up in a match dominated by the South Americans.
The win represented Chile’s first in World Cup competition since 1962 and came without the leading scorer in South American World Cup qualifying, Humberto Suazo, who was kept on the bench by manager Marcelo Bielsa. Suazo had been battling a thigh injury in recent days.
Chile was elaborate and stylish in their continuous attacks but Bielsa’s squad needed a fortuitous play to break through in the 34th minute. Mauricio Isla sent a cross from the right and Beausejour’s run to the near post was rewarded when an attempted clearance by Honduran defender Sergio Mendoza deflected off Beausejour and into the net.
As expected it was Chile which commanded the proceedings throughout the match with Honduras merely seeking opportunistic counterattacks. The nearest that Honduras came to preoccupying Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo came on a curling free kick by Ramon Nunez which Bravo knocked over the bar in first half stoppage time.
The South Americans pushed forward in waves with the creative and skilful trio of Jorge Valdivia, Matias Fernandez and Alexis Sanchez.
The Chileans came closest to doubling their lead in a seven minute period of the second half. First Sanchez made a penetrating run into the Honduran box in the 62nd minute only to see his diagonal shot go wide left.
Two minutes later Honduran ‘keeper Noel Valladares made one of the most spectacular saves of the tournament to foil Waldo Ponce’s low diving header from point-blank range. Valladares bounced to his right to parry the attempt.
That was followed by another desperate clearance as second-half substitute Hendry Thomas made a daring sliding tackle near his own six-yard box to stop another near goal.
Honduras never proved a threat for the Chilean back line especially with star striker David Suazo kept on the bench. The striker, who plays in Italy’s Serie A had been battling injury and was a doubt in the lead-up to the match.
Kansas City Wizards player Roger Espinoza had a fine match in defeat as he played a full 90 for los catrachos.
Honduras manager Reinaldo Rueda was not on the bench for the match as he served an outstanding suspension. His assistant, Alexis Mendoza, was the acting coach on the afternoon.
CHI – Beausejour 34’
LINEUPS (right to left):
Honduras (4-5-1): #18 Noel Valladares - #23 Sergio Mendoza, #2 Osman Chavez, #3 Maynor Figueroa, #21 Emilio Izaguirre - #17 Edgard Alvarez, #7 Ramon Nunez (78’ #15 Walter Martinez), #8 Wilson Palacios, #20 Amado Guevara (66’ #6 Hendry Thomas), #13 Roger Espinoza - #9 Carlos Pavon (60’ #12 Georgie Welcome)
Chile: #1 Claudio Bravo - #4 Mauricio Isla, #17 Gary Medel, #3 Waldo Ponce, #8 Arturo Vidal (81’ #5 Pablo Contreras) - #20 Rodrigo Millar, #6 Carlos Carmona, #14 Matias Fernandez - #7 Alexis Sanchez, #10 Jorge Valdivia (87’ #11 Mark Gonzalez), #15 Jean Beausejour
CHI – Carmona 4’
CHI – Fernandez 19’
HON – W. Palacios 33’
Referee: Eddy Maillet (Seychelles)
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