Poisoning claims dismissed
South Korea soccer officials yesterday ridiculed North Korea’s claims that its players were poisoned by Seoul before losing a World Cup qualifier last week. “The North’s claims are groundless,” said Park Il-ki, a Korea Football Association (KFA) official. “The North’s team stayed at a hotel they chose during the game in Seoul. They only had food that their team doctor checked out. Their claims are really far-fetched. How can we be responsible?” The North’s soccer body on Sunday accused Seoul of poisoning its players who lost Wednesday’s match 1-0. North Korea asked for a postponement before the game, saying three players had fallen ill because of food poisoning. FIFA ordered that the game go ahead as scheduled. In Sunday’s statement, the North urged FIFA to review the match. It said the food poisoning “was a product of a deliberate act perpetrated by adulterated foodstuff” and also blasted the referee for disallowing a goal by North Korea. “The match ... turned into a theater of plot-breeding and swindling,” the statement said.
Sporting, Benfica grab wins
Sporting defeated Leixoes 1-0 and Benfica beat Amadora 2-1 on Sunday — with all three goals coming from the penalty spot — as the two Lisbon clubs maintained the pressure on Portuguese leaders FC Porto. Sporting’s Derlei Fernandes scored with a left-footed shot in the 13th minute as Leixoes continued their slide — dropping to seventh. Amadora’s Ney Santos was booked for bringing down Nuno Gomes in the seventh minute and Oscar Cardoza stepped up to convert the penalty for Benfica. Cardoza scored again from the spot in the 15th minute to put Benfica 2-0 up, before Silvestre Varela got one back for the home side in the 29th minute after Hassan Yebda had brought down Nuno Andre Coelho. Orlando Sa, Cesar Peixoto and Alberto Rodriguez all scored second-half goals as Braga beat Setubal 3-0 on Sunday to stay fourth with 40 points. Maritimo drew 1-1 with Trofense and Naval and Pacos Ferreira drew 0-0 in a meeting of teams battling relegation.
Zenit down Tomsk, go top
Zenit St Petersburg had a 3-0 away victory at Tomsk on Sunday that shot them to the top of the Russian Premier League table. Zenit dominated the match, but Tomsk defended well, stifling the visitors’ attacking moves while hitting on the counterattack, to keep a clean sheet in the first half. But after the break, the home side paid the price for holding the fort for almost an hour as Zenit upped the tempo and went into the lead through Portuguese defender Fernando Meira, who fired in from close range from a corner. In the 60th minute, midfielder Igor Denisov made it 2-0 for Zenit, firing in from 18m after a Tomsk mix-up in defense. Turkish striker Fatih Tekke rounded off the scoring, sending the ball into an empty net after a razor-sharp pass by Konstantin Zyryanov with seven minutes to go.
Player injured in bus attack
A player was injured and taken to hospital when rival fans pelted Columbian soccer club Deportivo Cali’s bus with missiles as it arrived at the stadium for a match against Millonarios on Sunday. The kick-off was delayed 45 minutes as Deportivo refused to take the field following the injury to Juan Guillermo Dominguez. The team were persuaded by league officials to change their minds. “We want to set a precedent and we are not going to play,” Deportivo Cali’s Sergio Herrera said. Millonarios won 1-0.