Higuain hat-trick gives Argentina victory
Argentina 4 South Korea 1
Thursday 17 June 2010
Gonzalo Higuain scored the first hat-trick of the World Cup as Argentina all but assured themselves a place in the last 16 with an impressive victory over South Korea at Soccer City.
Diego Maradona's men were on top from the time they took the lead through a Park Chu-young own goal in the 17th minute.
Higuain doubled the advantage after 33 minutes, but a lapse in concentration from Martin Demichelis on the stroke of half-time allowed Lee Chung-yong to give his side hope.
After briefly threatening a comeback early in the second half, the Koreans faded thanks to a double from Real Madrid striker Higuain that handed his side maximum points from their opening two fixtures in Group B.
The first real chance of the match fell to Higuain on the right after good build-up play involving Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi, but the shot was lashed over.
It did not take much longer, though, for the first goal to arrive, a nicely flighted free-kick from Barcelona forward Messi on the left caught out Park Chu-young as he deflected the ball into his own net.
Almost immediately after the restart, another direct run from Messi saw the ball fall into the path of Maxi Rodriguez, who pulled his 20-yard strike wide.
Ki Sung-yong tried to hit back for the Koreans, sending a dipping long-range strike narrowly over the crossbar.
Walter Samuel, who hardly broke sweat in the opening quarter, was then forced off with what looked like a hamstring problem - the Inter Milan defender replaced by Nicolas Burdisso.
Tevez almost doubled the advantage shortly before the half-hour mark when his fizzing 20-yard free-kick continued to rise and ended up in the north stand at Soccer City.
But that lead was extended when a short free-kick on the left came to Rodriguez, whose ball into the box was flicked on by Burdisso to Higuain, who put his free header beyond the helpless Jung Sung-ryong.
The Korean goalkeeper prevented his side from falling further behind in the 40th minute - first coming off his line to punch away a cross-shot from the right by Higuain.
He then made a flying save to tip over Angel di Maria's shot from the edge of the box, but was beaten minutes before the break when Messi's enterprising skill ended with a curling shot beyond the right-hand post.
As the seconds wound down, Demichelis took his eye off a header from Park Chu-young, allowing Bolton midfielder Lee to nip in and score.
Argentina again looked threatening at the start of the second half, with Tevez and Di Maria combining to set up Higuain for a free header six yards out that was excellently tipped away by Jung.
Manchester City striker Tevez then cut in from the left, before unleashing a low dipping shot that was well dealt with by the Korean keeper.
Yeom Ki-hun should have drawn his side level after 55 minutes when he was put clean through on the right following a quick break, but found the side netting after opting to use his left foot instead of the right.
The big chances dried up for the South Americans thereafter - Messi and Higuain firing straight at Jung - and Maradona threw in Sergio Aguero for Tevez.
The moved proved an instant hit with the Atletico Madrid forward playing in Messi on the left - his initial shot was blocked by Jung and the rebound shot hit the base of the left upright and fell to Higuain for a simple tap-in.
That was in the 76th minute and four minutes later the Real Madrid star completed his hat-trick after nodding in Aguero's cross at the back post.
Messi, desperate to open his account in South Africa, and Aguero missed late chances to add to Korea's woes as the Albiceleste completed a commanding win.
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