GHANA’S opening goal had a rattling effect on South Korea but they showed amazing powers of recovery only to be floored again. Mohammad Kudus scored twice for Ghana, including the 68th-minute winner, as they revived their World Cup campaign with a rip-roaring 3-2 win in an absorbing, incredible match here at the Education City Stadium on Monday.
Ghana had gone into half-time with a 2-0 lead after goals from Mohammed Salisu and Kudus but two headed goals in the space of three second-half minutes by Cho Gue Sung had put South Korea level just past the hour mark. Kudus and Ghana, however, had the final say when the 22-year-old fired in the decisive goal in the 68th.
After a game in which momentum swung wildly, tempers flared at the end; South Korea coach Paulo Bento being shown a red card as they protested the referee’s decision to blow for the final whistle before they could take a corner and possibly a last-gasp chance to equalise.
Ghana’s win, coming after a 3-2 reverse against Portugal in their opener, sets up an intriguing clash with Uruguay in their final group game. Victory for Otto Addo’s men will see them through.
The last time those two sides met at the World Cup, back in 2010, a cynical handball from Luis Suarez denied Ghana a chance to score the winner and after Asamoah Gyan was unable to convert the resulting penalty, Ghana lost their chance to become the first African side to reach the semi-finals in the history of the tournament.
“It’s just another game,” Ghana defender Gideon Mensah told reporters after the game. “We won’t be going there for revenge. We know we need to win and that’s all.”
Ghana captain Andre Ayew, who was on the bench for that game 12 years ago, struck a similar chord. “Whether it’s revenge or not, we still need to win this game,” he told reporters.
Son Heung Min’s South Korea had started with more enterprise, more will, pushing Ghana back into their own box. Ghana’s lynchpin, their captain, Andre Ayew issued a rallying cry to no avail; the Koreans were coming at them from all angles. They were quick in interceptions, even faster in transition. They had a flurry of corners, six to be precise, in the opening 17 minutes. It seemed a matter of time for them to get the breakthrough.
It was Ghana, though, who broke the deadlock in the 24th, sparking widespread joy among a section of their fans who had continued to beat their drums, blow their trumpets despite seeing their side come under a period of sustained pressure. A free kick on the left was bent in superbly by Jordan Ayew from his right foot. The South Korean defence failed to clear it and Salisu was on hand to bundle it in from the six-yard box. Replays showed the ball had brushed Andre Ayew’s arm before falling to Salisu but VAR let it stand.
The goal gave Ghana a foothold in a game they needed to win to keep alive their hopes of advancing from Group ‘H’. Ten minutes later, they got a second. Jordan Ayew received the ball in a similar position to the one from which he’d sent the free-kick for the opening goal and this was another delightful, pinpoint cross for Kudus to glance past Kim Seung Gyu.
Ghana were all over South Korea now. The expression on their talisman Son’s face at half-time, despite the fact that he was wearing a mask because of his fractured eye socket, was telling of the situation. They needed to get back in this. They almost did seven minutes into the second half when Cho’s powerful header was beaten away by Lawrence Ati-Zigi.
Ati-Zigi, though, had no chance six minutes later. Kangin Lee had been on the pitch for less than a minute when he found space on the left to curl in a cross that was gleefully headed in after a darting run by Cho.
Spurred by the goal, South Korea piled on the pressure and were on level terms in the 61st when Son released Kim Jin Su on the byline and Cho towered above Ghanaian defender to power it in. The Korean fans behind the goal were in raptures, some couldn’t hold back their tears.
No joy is everlasting though. Ghana had been stunned into action and just seven minutes later they were back in the lead. Mensah was released on the left and sent in a low cross which Inaki Williams couldn’t connect with but Kudus, arriving at the back post, opened up his body and sent a shot with his left foot into the back of the net.
It was all happening. It was electric, frenetic, furious. Blink, and you’d miss. Ati-Zig had to be alert to turn away a free-kick from Lee Kang In and in an interlude of relentless Korean pressure, Salisu cleared a cross-turned-shot by Kim.
South Korea cranked up the pressure as time ran out but the Ghanaians defended by putting their bodies on the line; Ati-Zigi punching away a fierce drive from Cho as they closed out the win.
Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2022