World Cup: Hernandez at the double

South Korea 1 Ha Seok-ju 28 Mexico 3 Pelaez 51, Hernandez 75, 84 Attendance: 39,133
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The Independent Online
NOBODY will have slept easier in France last night than Manuel Lapuente, the beleaguered coach of Mexico.

His job has been on the line in recent months after his country's poor showing in World Cup warm-up matches - the team's soured relationship with the press resulted in the police being called twice to the team's hotel last week - but his half-time substitution helped to turn the course of yesterday's match and give Mexico a deserved victory.

The arrival of Ricardo Pelaez revived Mexico's fortunes, although their cause was helped considerably by the first-half dismissal of Ha Seok-ju, a South Korean defender, who had just given his team the lead. He had the dubious honour of being the first goalscorer to be sent off since Brazil's Garrincha 36 years earlier - curiously, also on 13 June.

Both teams had started with only one player up front and with five men stretched across both midfields it was no surprise that time on the ball was at a premium. The opening 25 minutes were shapeless, but then the game burst into life.

Alberto Garcia Aspe committed a needless foul on the edge of the penalty area which cost him a booking, but worse was to follow. Jorge Campos, the Mexico goalkeeper, who looked uncharacteristically subdued in his grey jersey, probably had Ha's free-kick covered, but the ball struck the head of Duilio Davino on its way and deflected into the corner of the net.

If that was a case of Davino intervention, Ha was to incur the wrath of the game's ultimate arbiter within two minutes. There was little danger when Jesus Ramirez collected the ball on the Mexican right, but Ha scythed him down with a vicious tackle and was rightly sent off.

Gunter Benko, the Austrian referee, was called upon to make two further excellent decisions as he denied successive penalty claims by the busy Ramirez. Both were proved correct by television replays, confirming the impression that the refereeing in France so far has generally been of the highest order.

Ha's dismissal proved to be the turning point - although the South Koreans started well, with only 10 men they were no match for the Mexicans, but it was not until the introduction of Pelaez that Mexico exposed their weakened defence. Within five minutes he brought Mexico back into the game, shooting home after Yoo Sang-chul had failed to clear.

The South Koreans had counter-attacked with some style in the first half, but now they started to buckle under a Mexican wave of attacks and Luis Hernandez, nicknamed The Matador, delivered the killer blows. After 75 minutes he bundled the ball in at the far post from a looping cross by Ramirez and nine minutes later struck even more impressively, driving the ball home from 18 yards.

In their fifth World Cup finals, South Korea are still awaiting their first victory. This was probably their best opportunity; now they may have to wait until they co-host the next tournament in four years' time.

South Korea (4-5-1): Kim Byung-ji (Ulsan Hyundai); Lee Min-sung (Pusan Daewoo), Hong Myung-bo (Bellmare Hiratsuka), Kim Tae-young (Chunnam Dragons), Ha Seok-ju (Cerezo Osaka); Choi Jong-soo (Sangmoo), Kim Do-keun (Chunnam Dragons), Noh Jung-yoon (NAC Breda), Yoo Sang-chul (Ulsan Hyundai), Lee Sang-yoon (Chunan Ilhwa); Kim Do-hoon (Vissel Kobe). Substitutes: Jang Hyung-seok (Ulsan Hyundai) for Kim Jung-yoon, 56; Choi Sung-yong (Sangmoo) for Kim Do-keun, 61; Seo Jung-won (Strasbourg) for Choi Jong-soo, 72.

Mexico (4-5-1): Campos (UNAM); Pardo (Atlas), Suarez (Guadalajara), Davino (America), Luna (UNAM); Ramirez (Guadalajara), Ordiales (Toluca), Lara (America), Garcia Aspe (America), Blanco (Necaxa); Hernandez (Necaxa). Substitutes: Arellano (Guadalajara) for Ordiales, h-t; Pelaez (America) for Luna, h-t; Bernal (Monterrey) for Garcia Aspe, 72.

Referee: G Benko (Austria).