Scots on Top as Poor Hungary Have Little to Offer

On an evening of glamour International Friendly’s across the globe, Hungary welcomed Scotland to the Groupama Arena on Tuesday evening in the first meeting of the two countries since 2004.  On that occasion, a Lothar Mattheus coached Hungary thrashed Scotland by three goals to nil at Hampden Park, Glasgow.  However, the tables were turned on Tuesday as Scotland ran out one-nil victors on a cold Budapest night.

A solitary Matt Phillips strike shortly after the interval was enough to give Alex McLeish his first victory in his second spell as Scotland manager, and condemn the already unpopular Georges Leekens to a second successive home defeat in less than a week.

Both sides used the opening stages of the game to suss out their opposition, with both favouring a direct approach rather than trying to play football on the bobbly surface.  As the game progressed it was the Scots who coped better with the conditions and began introducing more passing movements into their game, with the midfield ultimately gaining a stranglehold.

Hungary, however, continued with their dour direct approach of lumping long balls towards target-man Szalai who, after sizing up Scotland’s youthful and and inexperienced defensive duo of Hendry and McKenna in the early exchanges, seemed to fancy his chances more against the latter.  Unfortunately for Szalai and Hungary, on the precious few occasions that he was able to win the long ball and either flick it on or hold it up, there was rarely anyone in support to help out;  a feature of the game being the isolation of the Hungarian front man and lack of adequate support from his midfield runners.

For the most part, the first half was largely uneventful with neither side creating many chances of note bar one Dzsudzsak free kick for the hosts and a sclaffed effort by Forrest for the visitors.  That is until the 40th minute when Scotland was awarded a penalty after Ryan Fraser was bundled to the ground in the box.  Skipper Charlie Mulgrew took the responsibility of converting the spot-kick but his effort was well stopped by Peter Gulacsi, much to the delight of the home fans.

With the wind in their sails after the penalty save, Hungary looked more positive in the closing minutes of the half and almost broke the deadlock when a Richard Guzmics header was cleared off the line in the dying embers of the half.

However, Hungary’s revival was to be short-lived as Scotland, and Matt Phillips, scored the game’s only goal three minutes into the second half, firing home a low cross from the right by the diminutive Fraser.

From that moment on Scotland dominated the game.  McGregor, Armstrong, and McGinn won the midfield battle and started to control the tempo of the game; young defenders Hendry and McKenna grew as the game went on with Hendry, in particular, having an excellent game at the back.

Chances were at a premium as the game wore on and descended into the usual Friendly farce of substitutions which ultimately disrupted the flow of the game.

Despite this Hungary were afforded one final clear chance to level the scores when, in the 70th minute,  Szalai robbed Mulgrew of possession just outside the Scotland penalty area only to fluff his lines when clean through on goal with McGregor  coming off his line to deny the striker.

With the game petering out, and seemingly unable to think of a Plan B, Leekens replaced the largely immobile Szalai with the slightly more mobile Bode upfront.   In the end, though, Bode, an old-fashioned Mickey Quinn style bulldozer of a centre-forward, could do nothing to prevent Scotland from leaving with the win.

From a Scottish perspective, there were a number of positives to take from this game and signs that there may be some promising young players coming through at last.

For Hungary however, the signs are not so good.  From start to finish Hungary played with little purpose or positive aggression.  The game plan was to play it long, and if long didn’t work, then go longer.  There was no guile or cutting edge and unless Leekens can find a better solution to getting the best out of Dzsudzsak, Nikolics, and Co, then the immediate future for the Nemzeti Tizenegy is not a bright one.