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SOCCER / GOLD CUP : Honduras, Minus Top Goalie, Wins


The national soccer team of Honduras came into Friday night's opening match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup already in a bind. Its veteran goalkeeper was suspended for accusing a Southland promoter of offering him a bribe.

Honduras solved that problem by knocking Canada's goalkeeper out of the game in the first half on an ejection and storming to a 4-2 victory before an announced crowd of 13,374 at the Coliseum. The crowd appeared to be half that.

The Gold Cup, an eight-nation tournament sponsored by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, runs through July 7.

In Friday night's nightcap, Mexico defeated Jamaica, 4-1.

Tonight at 6 at the Rose Bowl, the United States plays Trinidad and Tobago. The first match is Costa Rica vs. Guatemala at 4 p.m.

The Honduras goaltender situation was hazy until gametime Friday, when Belarmino Rivera, who has played 18 years with the Olimpia club in Honduras, did not start. His suspension was the culmination of a weeks-long controversy over the alleged bribe offer.

Rivera, 34, said in an interview this week: "I don't want to say anything more on the topic. I don't have anything to say because I don't want to risk damaging my soccer career . . . I want to play another three years and I don't want this to affect those chances."

Honduras' chances of winning Friday night were greatly enhanced when Canadian goalkeeper Forrest Craig was ejected from the game in the 28th minute. Craig committed a professional foul against Eduardo Benett of Honduras. Under rules just adopted, a professional foul--in which a defending player intentionally fouls an opposing player in order to prevent a clear scoring opportunity--brings with it an automatic ejection.

Benett scored on the resulting penalty kick. With Canada down a player, Honduras had little trouble adding two more first-half goals on backup goaltender Carlo Marini.

Also ejected was Canadian Coach Tony Waiters, who had rushed angrily onto the field after the penalty to his goalkeeper. Waiters had to be escorted from the sidelines after initially refusing to leave.

In goal for Honduras was Wilmer Cruz, who had been Rivera's backup.

The controversy surfaced when a Central American newspaper reported what Rivera said was a bribe from Santa Ana promoter Hugo Bandi to allegedly allow El Salvador to defeat Honduras in the final of the Central American Nations Cup. That victory would have qualified the Salvadorans for this tournament.

Rivera told the newspaper that Bandi wanted El Salvador to play in Los Angeles because it had the potential to attract larger crowds. The newspaper also reported that Bandi offered Rivera $10,000 to see to it that Honduras lose.

Bandi, who is president of Sudmex Promotions Inc., has denied the claims.

But Rivera's wife, Sandra, told The Times in a telephone interview from Tegucigalpa that the offer had been made. She said that "powerful people" in Honduras were trying to downplay the matter.

"(Bandi) apologized to Mino (Rivera) for making the request, but he said he was acting on behalf of other people," she said. "My husband didn't specify the details, but it had to do with El Salvador winning."

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