Hwang Ui-jo scored a brace as South Korea defeated Turkmenistan 5-0 on Saturday to regain top spot in Group H in the second stage of Asian World Cup qualifiers.
It was South Korea’s third win in four games, the only blip being a goalless draw against Lebanon in November 2019 before COVID-19 devastated the competition.
The Lebanese had taken first place by beating Sri Lanka 3-2 in the first part of a double-header in South Korea’s Goyang.
The win in the second game allowed the hosts to regain first place with a much better goal difference.
The Turkmen spent the game chasing shadows as they crashed to their third defeat in five group matches to remain third, four points behind the top two.
Paulo Bento’s South Korea took the lead when Hwang headed home in the 10th minute on a long cross from Hong Chul.
The floodgates did not open immediately, as Turkmenistan kept South Korea at bay for more than 35 minutes with goalkeeper Rasul Charyyev in a leading role.
however, in first-half stoppage time, Charyyev was only able to parry an effort by Kwon Chang-hoon in the path of Qatar-based Nam Tae-hee who tapped in.
When Kim Young-gwon found the net in the 57th minute from a corner from Son Heung-min that was headed under by Jung Woo-young, the result was more or less sealed.
Kwon Chang-hoon upped the tally in the 63rd minute and Hwang added his second in the 73rd to complete an impressive display for the Taegug Warriors.
Previously, Lebanon bounced back from a goal to beat feisty Sri Lanka, with Joan Oumari finding the net twice.
Berlin-born Waseem Razeek gave Sri Lanka a shocking lead in the 10th minute after taking advantage of a defence-splitting pass from Kavindu Ishan to finish past Lebanon goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil.
Sri Lankan joy lasted barely a minute. Oumari found the equalizer immediately after the restart when he headed in a fine free kick from Mohamed Haider.
Mohamed Kdouh then put Lebanon ahead 17 minutes into the game, rising above the defense and heading home another great cross from the right from Hussain Zein.
The Cedars took a two-goal lead at half-time after Oumari struck from six yards in the 44th minute when the Sri Lankan defense failed to clear a corner.
Sri Lanka started strong after the restart and could have pulled one back, but a free kick by Razeek was deflected off the post by goalkeeper Khalil.
Razeek scored his second goal of the day by shooting into the roof of the net from the penalty spot after being knocked down by Hassan Chaitou.
Sri Lanka remains meaningless after their fifth defeat.