Javier Hernandez scored a milestone goal as Mexico marched towards the World Cup knockout stages with a 2-1 win over South Korea in Rostov-on-Don.
Arsenal outcast Carlos Vela had put Germany’s surprise conquerors ahead with a 26th-minute penalty and West Ham forward Hernandez sealed a second successive victory for Mexico in the 66th minute, reaching 50 international goals in the process.
Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son struck back in injury-time for South Korea, finding the top corner with his left boot (90+3), but it proved a mere consolation with both sides’ fate close to being sealed.
Mexico will be sure of a place in the last 16 if Germany fail to beat Sweden in Group F’s evening encounter and the same result would see South Korea – now beaten in both their games – officially ousted.
South Korea: Cho (6), Yong Lee (6), Jang (5), Young-Gwon Kim (6), Min-Woo Kim (6),Moon (6), Ju (7), Ki (6), Hwang (7), Jae-Sung Lee (6), Son (7).
Subs: Lee (6), Hong (6), Jung (6).
Mexico: Ochoa (6), Alvarez (6), Salcedo (8), Moreno (6), Gallardo (6), Layun (7),Herrera (7), Guardado (7), Vela (8), Hernandez (7), Lozano (8).
Subs: Marquez (5), Jesus (6), Dos Santos (6).
Man of the match: Carlos Vela
Juan Carlos Osorio resisted the urge to tinker too much after a famous opening victory that had left Hernandez in tears, but Mexico were shackled by a string of robust challenges in a scrappy start.
Hernandez headed high and wide from a 12th-minute free-kick but, just moments later, South Korea were denied by a crucial defensive intervention from Mexico’s match-winner against the world champions. Hee-Chan Hwang broke down the right but as Yong Lee shaped to meet his cross at the back post, Hirving Lozano threw his body in the way.
Juan Carlos Orosio made one Mexico change, with Edson Alvarez replacing Hugo Ayala in defence.
South Korea shook up their midfield, handing starts to Seon-Min Moon and Se-Hong Ju.
Son was thwarted three times – by desperate blocks and then a deflection – as the pace picked up, but Mexico seized advantage from the spot when Hyun-Soo Jang went to ground with his arm raised as Andres Guardado centred.
Son’s pace continued to cause problems as his team-mates launched balls over the top, but goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was rarely tested and Lozano, dropping his shoulder to drift between red shirts, might have doubled Mexico’s lead by the break.
Lozano struck wildly again soon after the restart, while up the other end, South Korea’s calls for a penalty when Seon-Min Moon’s shot struck Carlos Salcedo were given short shrift.
Guardado forced Hyeon-Woo Cho into a diving save and Vela went close again, the game increasingly stretched as South Korea sought an equaliser, but breathing space finally came midway through the second half.
Lozano drove goalwards following a swift break and Hernandez, beautifully balanced, cut inside to leave Jang on the turf before finding the back of the net.
Ochoa and substitute Rafael Marquez might have gifted South Korea a lifeline as they carelessly swapped short passes with Son lurking, but the damage had been done in the other box and Mexico’s travelling hordes danced with joy.
The game had meandered towards its end but Son’s quality finally showed at the death, even if it counted for nothing.
Man of the match – Carlos Vela
Hernandez reached a landmark total, the busy Lozano provided a key assist and Carlos Salcedo made a string of vital blocks but Vela deserves credit for a fine all-round display. He held his nerve from the spot but relished his free role, frequently switching with Miguel Layun and even dropping deep before getting a deserved breather inside the final 15 minutes.
- Mexico have won back to back matches at the World Cup for the first time since winning their first two matches at the 2002 World Cup.
- South Korea have lost their last four World Cup matches; their joint-worst losing run at the World Cup, also losing four between 1986 and 1990.
- Mexico have scored 10 penalties at the World Cup – only France, Germany and Spain have scored more penalties than they have in competition history.
- In the first half, Heung-Min Son had six shots (including blocks) – more than South Korea managed in the entirety of their first match against Sweden.
- Javier Hernandez is only the third player to score at three different World Cups for Mexico (2010, 2014 and 2018) after Cuauhtémoc Blanco (1998, 2002 and 2010) and Rafael Marquez (2006, 2010 and 2014).
- Carlos Vela’s penalty was the 14th taken at this year’s World Cup – one more than was taken in the entirety of the 2014 World Cup (13).