The 35-year-old marksman’s brace in his first match for the national team in over a year could not have come at a better time with South Korea appointing former German international Uli Stielike as their new boss hours earlier.
Former Korean international Shin Tae-yong was one of three coaches who took charge for the game against the Venezuelans and gave the Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors striker, who is top scorer in the K League classic this term, another opportunity.
Lee showed his gratitude by almost opening the scoring in the eight minute with a clever backheel that edged just wide as the hosts, spurred by a livewire display from forward Son Heung-min, took control of proceedings.
But they fell behind against the run of play after a horrible error by understudy goalkeeper Kim Jin-Hyeon in the 21st minute.
Kim’s attempted kick from his hands lacked height and direction and was easily controlled by Mario Rondon who lobbed the ball back over the shamed stopper’s head.
The Koreans, who had a disappointing group stage exit at the World Cup in Brazil in June, were quickly back on level terms though when midfielder Lee Myung-joo curled home.
Son had fed midfielder Lee Chung-yong whose attempted cross from the left rebounded back to Lee Myung-joo who curled a right foot effort into the corner of the net in the 33rd minute.
Lee Chung-yong should have put the hosts ahead right before halftime but his header from Son’s cross went high over the crossbar as the Koreans grew in confidence.
Six minutes after the break Lee Dong-gook showed him how it’s done as the striker’s near post powerful header from Kim Min-woo’s 51st minute corner sailed past the visitors goalkeeper.
The Venezuelans then gifted Lee an opportunity to bag a second when two defenders failed to deal with a cross from the right and the ball fell to the striker, known at home as the ‘Lion King’, who swept home off the post.
It was his 30th goal for South Korea and there was enough in his display to give him hope of making the squad for the Asian Cup in January.
Lee last played for the national team when he skippered the side in their 1-0 home loss to Iran in their final World Cup qualifier. He didn’t make the squad for the tournament in Brazil but was recalled after Hong Myung-bo stepped down as head coach following the early exit.
Stielike is expected to be in the stands when the Koreans host Uruguay in another friendly on Tuesday with Shin and his two fellow coaches continuing in temporary charge.
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing bt)