Benfica beat Spartak 2-0
Substitute Oscar Cardozo scored two second-half goals to give SL Benfica a 2-0 win over Spartak Moscow on Wednesday for their first Champions League victory this season. Cardozo came on at halftime and headed in a cross from Melgarejo in the 55th minute. The Paraguayan extended the Portuguese team’s lead in the 69th, when he received a pass from Ola John on the flank and struck a left-foot shot past goalkeeper Artem Rebrov. After two defeats and a draw, the victory kept alive Benfica’s hopes of reaching the knockout round from Group G. The Lisbon club have four points, five behind leaders Barcelona and three back from Celtic, with two group games left to play. The Russian team started strongly. Dmitri Kombarov splitting the Benfica defense with a pass for Diniyar Bilyaletdinov in the 14th, but Artur sprinted out to deny him from short range. Benfica gradually began to pick up the tempo and Enzo Perez fired just wide of Rebrov’s post in the 25th, before Jardel came close with a header. Rebrov was shown a yellow card as Spartak looked to get some breathing space, but Rodrigo kept up the pressure with a header that flew wide.
US face three away qualifiers
The US face three away matches in their first four fixtures in next year’s final phase of 2014 World Cup qualifying in the North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF) region. Jurgen Klinsmann’s US will open their campaign in Honduras on Feb. 6, while regional powerhouses Mexico host Jamaica. In the other match in the six-team round, Panama play Costa Rica. Three CONCACAF teams will advance directly to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, while the fourth-placed team will play off against a side from Oceania. After the Honduras game, the US host Costa Rica on March 22, then travel to Mexico on March 26. They visit Jamaica on June 7. The six teams will play each other twice, with the final fixtures slated for Oct. 15.
Darvish not playing Classic
Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish will not play for Japan in the World Baseball Classic next year, saying on Tuesday he wants to focus on winning a World Series. “This was a very difficult decision for me as it is always a tremendous honor to represent my native country of Japan,” Darvish said in a statement. Darvish was a key member of the Japan squad that won the 2009 Baseball Classic, recording the victory over South Korea in the championship game, while closing out the semi-final victory over the US.
AFC theft charge dropped
Malaysian prosecutors have dropped a theft charge against a man accused of stealing documents from the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, his lawyer said yesterday. Kong Lee Toong, husband of former AFC finance director Amelia Gan, had in September pleaded not guilty to the charge in a court in the Malaysian capital. The charge came amid an increasingly bitter battle between Asian soccer’s governing body and its suspended president Mohammed bin Hammam, who is being investigated by the AFC for what it calls possible corrupt activities. The AFC had lodged a complaint with police over missing documents reportedly relating to Bin Hammam, a former FIFA presidential candidate. Bin Hammam had complained that documents detailing “personal payments” were stolen from his office and were included in an internal AFC audit of his activities as president.