Vidi’s Night At The Bridge

Not since 1985 have Vidi enjoyed such a magical and memorable night in European football. That year there were quite a few of them, a penalty win over Man United in the UEFA Cup quarter-final and a 1-0 victory in the Bernabeu were seen as minor miracles at the time, but football is a whole lot different and a whole lot harder in this late-capitalist world. Written by Tomasz Mortimer

Vidi are a rare commodity in 21st century Hungarian football – they’re a club who have developed something of a pedigree in European competition.

Thinking of Vidi in Europe, minds will automatically remember that infamous Europa League campaign of 2012/13 under Paulo Sousa, coming through three qualifying rounds as underdogs to then beat Sporting and eventual semi-finalists Basel in the group stage. There’ll also be clearer memories of last summer, when they knocked out France’s sixth-best team Bordeaux in EL qualifying. This year they beat Dudelange, Ludogorets and Malmo in Champions League qualifying – all three of which ended up making it to the Europa League.

But last night felt a whole lot different, the anticipation was just at a different level to anything that’s gone before. This wasn’t a qualifier, this wasn’t a mediocre Sporting, this wasn’t a Swiss club. This was a genuine top 10 European side, one that was riding high in the ‘Best League in the World’™. Head coach Marko Nikolic didn’t have the highest of hopes, “We will try our best on Thursday evening and I am curious how we will cope in the end.” Not the most optimistic of sentences.

And for the first 20 minutes last night it did look like Vidi wouldn’t be able to cope. Morata, Emerson and Willian all screwed good chances wide and Vidi appeared flustered and dumbfounded as to how to get out.

But Vidi have a team packed full of experience, and though they’re European minnows, the only outfield player who wasn’t an international last night was Loic Nego, and even he’d played in a U20 World Cup semi-final alongside Griezmann, Lacazette and Coquelin. But Chelsea’s starting XI cost nearly €300m to assemble. Vidi’s cost less than €2m. That’s why they were priced as high as 40/1 to win. Yet towards the second half, it was Vidi who could easily have taken the lead on two or three occasions; first when Milanov appeared to have been hauled down from Gary Cahill inside the box, and second through Loic Nego who’s shot from 10 yards out was scuffed harmlessly into Kepa’s hands, while Nego also poked an effort wide after a mix up at the back between Christenson and Kepa.

The pre-match predictions of 7/8-0 from some quarters were pretty much crushed by halftime, and though Chelsea had more to give with the imperious Eden Hazard waiting on the bench, Vidi had given the home side a pretty decent scare in the first half and came out in the second half playing with a new-found confidence.

Hazard was eventually introduced for Pedro after 54 minutes, just after Nego tested Kepa with a stinging left-footed effort, but strangely it gave Vidi the impetus as Hazard didn’t really care to track Attila Fiola who bombed on and on in the second half.

Though it was Chelsea who struck, without Hazard’s involvement, in the 70th minute through an increasingly frustrated Alvaro Morata who shed tears in celebration – a fine compliment to Vidi and especially Juhasz who’d given the Spaniard a mightily tough time.

Indeed, it was Juhasz who was probably Vidi’s star man of the night. At 35, the wily old veteran still proved he could do it on the big stage and Marco Rossi must surely be considering giving the big man a call to tempt him out of international retirement. Since coming back to Vidi, Juhasz has rarely dropped in form and throughout this and last year’s European campaign, he’s been immense.

Nego also shone bright for Vidi. The Frenchman never tired and would surely have alerted scouts across Europe with that performance, and his performances this season. Istvan Kovacs’ moment almost came too, forcing a magnificent save from Kepa late on. In fact, it’s hard to pick anyone out who didn’t play well. Vinicius was back to his best, Stopira excellent, Fiola non-stop, Milanov a threat on the break, Hadzic and Huszti strong in midfield, and Scepovic a hassle and a focal point up top. Even the second-choice Tujvel in goal was solid.

Marko Nikolic commented after the game that he had mixed feelings inside of him, but pre-game he couldn’t have seriously hoped for much more than what Vidi did show. The 1,400 travelling support from Hungarian would’ve warmed his heart too; throughout the game they were non-stop, and were even applauded by the Chelsea fans at full time. It could’ve been for the players’ performance or for the fans’ performance, both would’ve been apt.

In 2018, it was an increasingly rare, proud night for Hungarian football.