OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Mass exit as Games begin

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THE Olympic action kicked off quietly last night, with only 18,000 in Barcelona's Nou Camp stadium for Italy's 2-1 win over the United States, but it did not stay calm for long. Spain and Colombia saw to that at Valencia, the hosts having two players dismissed in their bizarre and entertaining 4-0 victory.

Colombia's Ivan Valenciano was also shown the red card and nine players were booked - six Colombians and three Spaniards - in the bad-tempered Group B encounter. Valenciano was sent off by the German referee, Markus Merk, after 18 minutes for a wild challenge on Juan Lopez. As the game boiled over, Lopez was ordered off for a crude tackle. He was followed by Abelardo early in the second half.

Three first-half goals set Spain on their way to a rout. Josep Guardiola opened the scoring and further goals before the interval from Quico Narvaez and Rafael Berges put the matter beyond doubt.

Midway through the second half Luis Martinez, the tall Real Madrid striker, scored a tremendous fourth, lobbing the Colombian goalkeeper, Miguel Calero, from the edge of the area.

Gary Lineker, BBC's roving reporter was back at Barcelona for the game between the favourites, Italy, and the novices of America. The Azzurri looked in control throughout - as they should with seven of their number having had Serie A experience. The European Under-21 champions strolled into a two-goal lead after 22 minutes with goals from Alessandro Melli and Demetrio Albertini, a full international.

Their composure was shaken in the 65th minute when Joe-Max Moore scored from a free-kick in the penalty area. The Italian keeper, Francesco Antonioli, was judged to have taken too many steps and Moore curled his free-kick around the wall before setting off on a celebration run that suggested he had won a gold medal.

Italy led Group A briefly before Poland's 2-0 success over Kuwait at Zaragoza later last night. The Poles recorded a routine victory, brushing Kuwait aside with two goals from Andrzej Juskowiak, the Lech Poznan forward. Two go through from each of the four groups.

Spain lead Group B from Qatar, surprise 1-0 winners over Egypt, whose full international side drew with the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland at Italia '90. Qatar won through Mubarak Nooralla's late goal against the run of play.

OLYMPIC FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT: Group A: Italy 2 United States 1 (Barcelona); Poland 2 Kuwait 0(Zaragoza). Group B: Spain 4 Colombia 0 (Valencia); Egypt 0 Qatar 1 (Sabadell).