Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to inspire Team GB to victory over UAE, while elsewhere there were mixed results for the Chelsea contingent at the Olympics.
Both Sturridge and Ryan Bertrand started as substitutes in what was a must-win game for Stuart Pearce’s side at Wembley following Senegal’s 2-0 win over Uruguay earlier in the day, and while the left-back failed to get on, Sturridge – along with fellow sub and former Chelsea man Scott Sinclair – had a decisive impact on the game following his introduction.
Captain Ryan Giggs had given the home side the lead with a goal made in Wales, expertly heading home from Craig Bellamy’s cross, but the visitors levelled on the hour when Rashid Essa evaded James Tomkins and finished well.
Sinclair, who replaced Giggs, restored GB’s advantage shortly after coming on when he bundled home from close-range after the goalkeeper could only parry Bellamy’s low delivery, and it was left to Sturridge to put the seal on the victory three minutes later as he exquisitely chipped a delightful effort beyond Ali Khaseif after racing on to Tom Cleverley’s pass.
Our latest acquisition, Oscar, meanwhile, impressed again, scoring Brazil’s third goal in their 3-1 win against Belarus at Old Trafford.
Belarus shocked the tournament favourites by taking the lead in the seventh minute minute through Renan Bardini Bressan, but Mario Menez’s side equalised shortly after when Alexandre Pato headed home a wonderful Neymar cross at the back-post.
Neymar, whose all-round performance underlined the reason why he is one of the hottest prospects in world football at the moment, put Brazil in front with an exquisite free-kick midway through the second half, before he laid on the third for Oscar late on with a cheeky back-heel after a brilliant solo run, leaving our new boy with a simple finish as they secured their place in the quarter-finals with a game to spare.
Juan Mata and Oriol Romeu, however, suffered Olympic heartache as their Spain side were eliminated from the tournament after losing 1-0 to Honduras at Newcastle’s Sports Direct Arena.
Jerry Bengston gave Honduras the lead after only eight minutes, and while Spain dominated proceedings from start to finish, hitting the woodwork three times, they were unable to force their way back into the game and salvage their campaign.
Mata played the full 90 minutes, and while he did his best to inspire his younger teammates, it was to no avail. Romeu was an unused substitute.