Mex­i­cans head for the knock­out stage in Rus­sia

Sunday Times - - Sport | Russia 2018 -

● Mex­ico built on the mo­men­tum from their stun­ning vic­tory over world cham­pi­ons Ger­many by over­pow­er­ing South Korea 2-1 yes­ter­day to take a gi­ant step to­wards the World Cup last 16.

Car­los Vela put them ahead 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.

It was Her­nan­dez’s 50th goal for his coun­try and his fourth strike at a World Cup, tak­ing him level with Luis Her­nan­dez as Mex­ico’s lead­ing scorer in soc­cer’s global show­piece tour­na­ment.

Korea’s tal­is­manic for­ward Son He­ung­min struck a scorch­ing con­so­la­tion goal in stop­page 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 yes­ter­day.

The hap­less Kore­ans, who have no points af­ter two matches, will be elim­i­nated if Swe­den draw or win against Ger­many.

“We came to Rus­sia with a lot of crit­i­cism but we’re work­ing hard and we have a lot of tal­ent.

“We have hu­mil­ity but we beat Ger­many and South Korea and now we have to play against Swe­den and stay cool and calm,” goalscorer Her­nan­dez said.

“We can­not af­ford to get caught up in all this, we have to con­tinue our job and stay hum­ble, of course we should en­joy this but tomorrow we start work­ing again.”

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 stroking the ball home.

Lozano proved a con­stant threat to the Kore­ans when­ever he came dart­ing down ei­ther wing, blast­ing over in the first half and later hav­ing a goal-bound shot blocked by op­pos­ing cap­tain Ki Sung-yueng.

His pace pun­ished Korea, catch­ing them on the break, al­low­ing Her­nan­dez to fin­ish them off, beat­ing a de­fender with a flick of his left foot and tucking the ball into the net with his right.

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