Ghana showed great character to beat a spirited South Korean side in a five goal thriller at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan. South Korea worked their way back from two nil down to level the game at 2-2 but a third goal of the World Cup from Mohammed Kudus sealed Ghana's first points of the tournament.
South Korea made three changes coming into the match from their goalless draw with Uruguay on the opening matchday. Sang-Ho Na, Jae-Sung Lee and Ui-Jo Hwang have all dropped to the bench as Jeong, Kwon and Cho have been called into replace them. Spurs winger and South Korean captain Son Heung-Min started but Wolves’ Hwang Hee-Chan was named on the bench as he is still managing a hamstring problem.
Ghana made three changes as well after their 3-2 opening match defeat to Portugal as well as opting for a different formation as they switched from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3. Reading’s Bab Rahman, Alexander Djiku and Alidu Seidu all drop to the bench to accommodate the switch in formation. Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey, Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew and Gideon Mensah all came into the starting eleven.
South Korea started looking like the better side and the most likely to score as they had seven corners inside the first seventeen minutes of the game. They struggled to get properly in behind as they were limited to shots from range and whatever they could create from a corner as well.
However, halfway through the first half and completely against the run of play Ghana took a massive lead. Jordan Ayew whipped in the ball from a free kick on the left-hand side which South Korea failed to deal with as it dropped to Southampton’s centre back Mohammed Salisu who fired home from close range. A lengthy VAR review followed as the ball had struck Andre Ayew’s hand as South Korea failed to clear the ball as it dropped to Salisu but they deemed that the goal was alright to stand.
Just ten minutes later, Ghana doubled their lead as South Korea looked stunned after the opening goal and couldn’t regain any control of the match like they did have earlier. It came from a wonderful cross from Jordan Ayew again on the left wing which found Kudus in the middle who flicked it past Kim into the back of the net. Ghana started to completely dominate proceedings as South Korea looked stunned by the two quickfire goals which had just gone in.
They composed themselves to see out at the rest of the half but after a strong start to the half they went in at the break trailing by two goals. As soon as they came under any threat defensively, they dropped too deep and allowed Ghana chances as they converted both of their shots on target. Ghana were the more efficient side in the first half and they had what looked like a comfortable two goal lead to take into the second forty-five.
South Korea came out in the second half looking much better and seven minutes into the second half they got their first shot on target of the tournament. A ball played in by Son was meant by the head of Cho who headed towards the top corner but Ati-Zigi was up well to palm the ball to safety.
Just minutes later, they got a goal which they have deserved for their efforts in the first half and their strong start in the second half. The South Korean substitute Lee dispossessed Lamptey and swung a brilliant ball into the middle which Cho headed past Ati-Zigi from come range to get a goal back for South Korea.
Two minutes later, South Korea scored their second goal in three minutes as the stadium went crazy as they levelled the game at 2-2. Some lovely play down the left-hand side led to a brilliant ball being floated up to the back post by Kim. Cho was ready to get on the end of it and timed his run perfectly as he overpowered the Ghanaian defence as it rocketed past the keeper to make it 2-2.
Just as Ghana looked down and out, the game took another turn as just seven minutes Ghana look the lead once again through Kudus’ third goal of the World Cup so far. A lovely ball across the box was played in from the left by Mensah to Williams who miskicked the ball getting the slightest of touches. It rolled to the man behind him who was Kudus who smashed it low and hard past the goalkeeper to give Ghana the lead again.
The South Korean substitute Lee had been a game changer as he almost got South Korea the equaliser to make it three goals apiece with fifteen minutes to go. His long-range free kick looked to be curling and bending into the bottom corner but Ati-Zigi turned it behind for a corner. From the breakdown of the resulting corner, South Korea had a brilliant chance at the back post as a deflected shot looped to an unmarked Kim at the back post who beat the keeper but it was cleared of the line by Salisu to keep Ghana in front.
The South Korean manager, Paul Bento, was sent off after the match for his aggressive nature shown towards referee Anthony Taylor in protest to South Korea being awarded a corner in the 101th minute but weren't allow to take it due to time being up. He will now not be able to be on the touchline for their last match of the group stage against Portugal on Friday.
Ghana managed to see out the remaining time and held on for a vital and crucial 2-3 victory which secured their first points of the World Cup. South Korea had showed great spirit and belief to come out in the second half and bounce back with two quick goals to get back on level terms. However, Kudus had been such a critical player for Ghana in this World Cup and he provided more magic to put himself top of the goalscoring chart at the competition as well as giving his country a chance of progression to the knockout stages.
As it currently stands, South Korea aren't out but they will have to beat Portugal in the last match to stand any hope of reaching the knockout stages but there is still a chance due to the fact that they picked up a point in their opening match with Uruguay. For Ghana, it's a chance for revenge in the final match as they could dump Uruguay out of the competition and get revenge for the South Americans knocking them out in South Africa twelve years ago. The game which is infamous for Luis Suarez's handball on the line in the final minute of extra time which the Uruguayan got sent off for but Ghana missed the resulting penalty and eventually crashed out in the shoot out.
It's all to play for in Group H but after the result of the late game between Portugal and Uruguay it will make the paths more clear for both Ghana and South Korea as well as informing them what they need to do to qualify for the knockout stages.