Javier Hernandez steers Mexico past South Korea and towards last-16
Rostov painted green as Mexicans pile the pressure on world champions Germany
Javier Hernandez celebrates scoring Mexico’s second against South Korea. Photograph: Joe Klamar/AFP
Mexico built on the momentum from their stunning opening victory over world champions Germany by comprehensively beating South Korea 2-1 on Saturday and taking a giant leap towards reaching the last-16 of a World Cup they have taken by storm.
Carlos Vela smashed them into the lead from the penalty spot in the 26th minute at Rostov Arena, which had been taken over by Mexico’s sea of fanatical supporters.
All-time top scorer Javier Hernandez sealed victory in the second half, finishing off an unstoppable move from breakout player Hirving Lozano.
The goal was Hernandez’s fourth strike at a World Cup and took him level with Luis Hernandez as Mexico’s leading scorer in soccer’s premier international tournament.
Korea’s talismanic forward Son Heung-min struck a scorching consolation goal in injury time from outside the area.
Mexico will clinch their place in the next round if Germany fail to beat Sweden in the other Group F game later on Saturday.
The hapless Koreans, who have no points after two games and have only won one of their last 11 World Cup fixtures, will be eliminated if Sweden draw or win against Germany.
As the game kicked off Mexico fans sang ‘We are the home team’ and with green shirts dotted all over the stadium and rousing chants of ‘Ole!’ bellowing around the arena every time their side passed the ball, it was hard to disagree.
Conditioned by the dry heat that has been a feature of every game at the Rostov Arena, Mexico did not quite have the same thrust and energy as against Germany although they still controlled most of the play and looked far more dangerous.
Korea saw an improvement from their opening defeat to Sweden although their main tactic consisted of searching for Son Heung-min with long balls behind the defensive line.
The closest they came to scoring was with a header from a corner which Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa tipped over the bar.
Mexico’s breakthrough came when captain Andres Guardado’s cross was blocked by a stray arm from Korean defender Jang Hyun-soo, and Vela kept his nerve from the spot, sending goalkeeper Cho Hyeon-woo the wrong way and blasting down the middle.
Lozano proved a constant threat to Korea whenever he came darting down either wing, blasting over in the first half and later having a goalbound shot blocked by opposing captain Ki Sung-yueng.
His remarkable pace punished Korea, catching them out on the break, allowing Hernandez to finish them off.
South Korea: Cho; Yong Lee, Jang, Young-Gwon Kim, Min-Woo Kim (Hong 84); Moon (Jung 77), Ju (Seung-Woo Lee 63), Ki, Hwang; Jae-Sung Lee, Son. Booked: Young-Gwon Kim, Yong Lee, Seung-Woo Lee, Jung.
Mexico: Ochoa; Alvarez, Salcedo, Moreno, Gallardo; Layun, Herrera, Guardado (Marquez 68), Vela (Jimenez 77), Hernandez, Lozano (Jesus Corona 71).
Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia).