Unfortunate Hungary fall to Australia thanks to late own goal

In possibly the most bizarre ending to an International football match that I can recall, both Australia and Hungary exchanged own goals in the closing minutes to ensure that the visitors will head off to Russia 2018 in winning form after leaving the Groupama Arena with a narrow 2-1 victory.

In what was a fairly even contest throughout, the visitors opened the scoring through 19-year-old substitute Daniel Arzani in the 75 minute, just 2 minutes after his introduction to the game.   Arzani’s goal – his first for the Socceroo’s – owed a lot of thanks to a momentary lapse from fellow substitute Dénes Dibusz, that the latter will want to forget quickly, as he allowed a fairly tame curling effort from the young Australian to escape his reach and trickle into the home net.

Arzani’s goal looked like it would split the sides until both captain’s, Trent Sainsbury and Tamas Kadar, decided to liven up the closing stages with an own goal apiece to settle the game in Australia’s favour.

Going into the game, Hungary was looking for a confidence-boosting first win under new, and already under-fire, manager Georges Leekens following defeats to Kazakhstan and Scotland and the recent draw with Belarus.  Despite the previous poor results, the hosts began the game in a positive fashion with Roland Sallai providing a constant threat down the left-hand side.

As the half wore on Australia began to grow into the game and created several half-chances of their own with Leckie and Kruse combining well on a couple of occasions but without ever really troubling Gulacsi.

However, the majority of the opening exchanges provided a rather dull fare with both sides cancelling each other out, Kleinheisler and Vadocz, in particular, doing a stellar job at stopping any service reaching Australian talisman, Tom Rogic.

It wasn’t until after the half-hour mark that the game sparked into life with Adam Szalai missing a guilt-edged 1-on-1, and Laszlo Kleinheisler crashing the bar with a 25-yard effort for the hosts.  At the other end, both Mooy and  Kruse fired long-range efforts off target, before Tamas Kadar saw a 45th-minute header cleared off the line.

The second half started in a similar vein to the first, with both sides taking time to settle back into the game before the expected raft of substitutions started on the hour mark with Daniel Bode entering the fray to a hero’s welcome as he replaced Szalai up front.

Although both teams were creating half openings it was becoming increasingly likely that it would take a moment of inspiration or a costly mistake to open the scoring.  Unfortunately for Dibusz, it was the latter as he allowed Arzani’s effort to creep past him handing Australia the lead.

The loss of the opening goal appeared to suck the life out of an already fragile home team and their support with the players heads visibly looking down and being met by groans of expectant disappointment from the stands.

However, just as it looked like Australia would see the game out, Attila Fiola took it upon himself to go on a one-man mission and drag Hungary level.  On three consecutive occasions, the big Videoton defender read the play and stole in in-front of opponents to win the ball before finally dinking a cross into the penalty area where Australian captain Trent Sainsbury – who had been immense up to that point – inexplicably nodded the ball past his own keeper to level the scores.  Nothing less than Hungary deserved on balance of play.

Not to be outdone, however, Tamas Kadar, Hungary captain in the absence of Balazs Dzsudzsak, returned the own goal favour a few minutes later, diverting a cut back from Jackson Irvine through Dibusz’s legs to hand victory to Australia.

With Kadar’s own goal came an end to the action and the all too familiar taste of defeat for Hungary.  But unlike other recent games, there were signs of progress and positives that can be taken away.

In his post-match press conference, national manager Leekens spoke of his disappointment at the result, but also of his satisfaction of the overall performance, the first half in particular.  He highlighted the midfield as a key strength and was quick to praise the performance of Laszlo Kleinheisler.

On the first goal, Leekens was sympathetic towards his keeper Dibusz and even joked that it was better he made the mistake in a friendly and not a competitive fixture.

But Leekens is not a popular manager amongst the Hungarian press or fan base at large and, with another black mark against his name again today, faced the question “Have you thought about quitting given your lack of popularity?”  Leekens answer, a resounding “No!”

The Belgian see’s his as a long-term job of putting in place a strategy to take Hungary forward while acknowledging there may be backwards steps as he finds a balance between youth and experience, both at international and club level.

Whether he is given the time to see that through is another question entirely.