Mohammed Kudus scored twice as Ghana beat South Korea 3-2 in a pulsating World Cup encounter on Monday to keep their FIFA World Cup hopes alive and leave Paulo Bento’s side facing an early exit.
Mohammed Salisu opened the scoring against the run of play midway through the first half at Education City Stadium and Ajax midfielder Kudus doubled the Black Stars’ lead.
But the Asian side, who looked toothless in the first half, roared back after the break, pulling level through a quickfire double from forward Cho Gue-sung either side of the hour mark.
Ghana looked shell-shocked as the Korean fans celebrated wildly but they were back in front in the 68th minute when Kudus finished calmly at the back post after Inaki Williams failed to connect with a cross from the left.
The result takes Ghana into second in Group H on three points.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will have six points and secure qualification for the last 16 if they beat Uruguay in the later kick-off in Qatar.
Despite their efforts, South Korea look likely to crash out of the tournament at the group stage for the third straight World Cup.
The Asian side, captained by Son Heung-min, were quicker to settle, forcing a succession of corners as they dominated possession but they were unable to fashion a shot on target in the entire first half.
Son looked uncomfortable in the black face mask he is wearing after having surgery for a facial injury he suffered while playing for Spurs, constantly readjusting it.
Ghana, who lost their opener 3-2 to Portugal, struggled to gain a foothold in the game.
But the match totally changed complexion in the 24th minute when the impressive Jordan Ayew, playing down the left for Ghana, swung in a cross following a free-kick.
South Korea failed to clear and Southampton centre-back Salisu finished with his left foot, sparking wild scenes of celebration among the Ghana fans decked out in red, white and green.
The goal revitalised the African nation, who reached the quarter-finals in 2010, with South Korea struggling to deal with their physicality and direct approach.
Now playing with flair and confidence, Ghana poured forward and doubled their lead in the 34th minute when Kudus powered a header home after a pin-point Jordan Ayew cross from the left.
Captain Andre Ayew – the brother of Jordan – called his men into a team huddle on the pitch and the players got soaked by the sprinklers before they went off for their half-time beak.
The Koreans at last produced an effort on target in the 53rd minute, when goalkeeper Lawrence Ati Zigi punched away a header from Cho.
But the Korean found the net just minutes later, heading home a cross from substitute Lee Kang-in, who had just been brought on by Bento.
And they were level just three minutes later when Cho headed home Kim Jin-su’s ball from the left, sparking scenes of delirium among the Korean fans.
Now Ghana were rocking but they restored their lead midway through the second half through Kudus.
South Korea came back again. Zigi was forced into a scrambling save to push away a free-kick while Salisu cleared off the line.
The fourth official held up a board for 10 minutes of added time. South Korea continued to pour forward but they could not find the net and a number of their players collapsed to the turf at the final whistle.
Bento was sent off for protesting at the end of the match.