Kudus grabs winner as Ghana edge past South Korea in World Cup thriller

Breathless Group H encounter means African side are still in hunt for qualification

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Well, what a World Cup, then.

After Cameroon and Serbia served up a thriller early on Monday, Ghana and South Korea swiftly followed suit.

Ghana were two to the good at a raucous Education City Stadium, weathering an early South Korean storm and supposedly cruising to a first World Cup victory in 12 years. Then they were reined back in.

South Korea, stunned initially by the Africans, needed only three second-half minutes. Having required 156 to register a single shot on target this World Cup, they scored with their first and doubled their goal tally with their second. In doing so, they reeled their rivals back in.

But Ghana would have the final say. Mohammed Kudus grabbed his second of the game, matching South Korea’s Cho Gue-sung at the other end and, this time, Paulo Bento’s side had no reply.

So, not long after Cameroon and Serbia drew 3-3, Ghana edged out South Korea 3-2. And there were still two more Monday matches to come.

With the win, Ghana breathed life back into their bid for the knockout stages. If they were gallant in defeat against Portugal, going down 3-2 but still giving Cristiano Ronaldo a mighty fright, they were galvanised against South Korea.

Staring World Cup elimination in the face, they forced it to one side. Defeat would have relegated Otto Addo's men to keeping unwanted company, alongside Qatar and Canada as the only sides already heading out the exit.

Portugal 3 Ghana 2 - in pictures

But they withstood an early South Korean onslaught, seized their chances, got pegged back and, to their immense credit, came again. They ended a frantic and fabulous encounter on top.

At the group summit, too, although previous leaders Portugal were yet to play Uruguay on Match Day 2. Surely that couldn’t provide another see-saw show?

This had been exactly that. Right from the off, South Korea laid siege to the Ghana penalty area. They had seven corners in the first 17 minutes alone.

However, for all the huff and puff, they produced little end product. At one point, Son Heung-min even attempted an audacious overhead kick. It was turning into one of those afternoons.

In a 10-minute spell, it became that afternoon. Ghana struck twice. Jordan Ayew, relegated to the bench in the opener, rewarded his reintroduction with a double impact. Both of his crosses created the Ghana goals. The first, inadvertently, as South Korea failed to clear his free-kick, and the ball fell to Mohammed Salisu, leaving the Ghana defender to poke home.

Replays showed the ball found its way to Salisu by Andre Ayew’s forearm, but even though the Video Assistant Referee was consulted, the goal stood.

Soon, it was two. Again, Ayew was the instigator, sending a superb cross into the South Korean’s six-yard box. The only one to anticipate it, Kudus glanced the header inside the far post. Much like the defence in front, goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu stood static.

Bento, the South Korea manager, stood with his hands in his pockets. Understandably, he looked lost in thought. Having to save his World Cup campaign in a match against Portugal, his country of birth and whom he represented at the global finals two decades ago, was probably giving plenty of food for thought.

Ghana fans, scattered around the stadium but with a considerable contingent behind their own goal, were a riot of colour and noise.

At the beginning of the second half, a warning of what was to come. Well, who would have really predicted that? Having had little to do until then, Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi pushed away Cho Gue-sung’s goalbound header.

Not long after, he couldn’t. On 58 minutes, Tariq Lamptey was caught on the ball on the right, Lee Kang-in crossed brilliantly with his left, and Cho, his movement expert, nodded home.

Then, repeat. This time, Kim Jin-su hung up the cross, and Cho, rising remarkably high, powered in the header. The South Korean bench leapt from their seats and powered down the touchline. Bento set off in the other direction.

His joy, though, would be short-lived. About seven minutes, in fact. Mensa crossed, Williams missed it completely, and Kudus finished low past Kim. Incredibly, Ghana had done it.

For the remainder, they stood strong. Ati-Zigi saved Lee Kang-in's free-kick and then Kim Jin-su’s rising shot, Daniel Amartey booted Kim’s scuffed effort off the line and Ati-Zigi thwarted Cho.

Ghana prevented a manic match from taking one final twist. As if in keeping with the game, Bento was sent off after the final whistle for remonstrating too vigorously with the referee. Like everyone else at Education City, he could probably do with a lie down.

Updated: November 28, 2022, 3:49 PM