Hungarian football

PREVIEW: NBI - round 19

This is the final week before the top flight of Hungarian football goes dormant for six weeks. Teams like Mezőkövesd, Videoton, and Honvéd are hitting their stride and would love to see the campaign extend over the holidays. On the other hand, teams like Gyirmót, Ferencváros, and Debrecen are looking forward to the break to rest or regroup.
It’s been a thrilling season so far, and this final week should provide us with some twists and turns as NBI closes the curtain on act one.

Budapest Honvéd (3rd) vs Mezőkövesd-Zsóry SE (5th)
at Bozsik József Stadion

This could be the match of the round. The two hottest teams in NBI will clash in the outskirts of the capital. Honvéd are unbeaten in their last five with four wins. They’ve defeated both ends of the table in consecutive weeks, showing that they’re just as comfortable playing when stakes are high as well as when complacency might become an issue. Marco Rossi must be pleased with not only the results but they way his side has been playing. Winger, Dániel Prosser, has scored in his last two games for Honvéd. With leading scorer Davide Lanzafame not even on the team sheet week last week, it’s been a positive sign that others have stepped up to carry the load in attack.
Attila Pintér’s Mezőkövesd are unbeaten in their last 7 with five victories, but their biggest came last week - a 2-0 victory over Ferencváros. Midfielder Stipe Bacelic-Grgic has 1 goal and 3 assists in last five for Mezőkövesd, and he leads the team in overall production with 3 goals and 5 assists on the season. In goal, wonder-boy Tomas Tujvel has kept 5 clean sheets in his last 7 appearances and has been as big a contributor as any player in terms of the club’s recent fortunes. Mezo defeated Honvéd 3-1 in their last meeting. In fact, Honvéd has lost to Mezőkövesd in all three of their competitive matches.

Prediction: Budapest Honvéd 2-2 Mezőkövesd-Zsóry

Diósgyori VTK (11th) vs Gyirmót FC Gyor (12th)
at Mezőkövesd Városi Stadion

Round 19 also features a true relegation six-pointer as Diósgyor will try to take advantage of Gyirmót’s plummeting form and leapfrog a few teams in the process. DVTK had won consecutive matches before being humbled 3-0 by Vasas at the weekend. Even so, both Zoltán Lipták and Roland Ugrai have 2 goals in their last three matches. István Bognár started for the first time in four matches last week as he looks almost 100% after recovering from a broken hand.
Gyirmót are on seven match losing run and haven't scored in two games. In fact, they’ve only scored twice in their last seven matches. It’s been a disastrous stretch for the newly-promoted side and they’ll be a team that will welcome the break to hopefully retool and regroup.
Gyirmót defeated Ferenc Horváth’s side back in September when Gyirmót were pinning up clean-sheets like busy mum on a clear spring day. However, in their last three matches they’ve conceded as many goals as they did in the entire months of August and September.  On top of that they haven’t scored a goal on the road since 24 September - their last victory.

Prediction: Diósgyor 2-0 Gyirmót

Paksi FC (9th) vs Vasas SC (1st)
at Fehérvári úti Stadion

Vasas travel to the “fortress” of Fehévári úti this week in an attempt to finish the autumn season on a high note. Paks, however, are still undefeated at home having only conceded 6 goals in 9 matches there this season. Only Haladás have as good a defensive record at home. Their win over Haladás at the weekend broke a run of five draws at Paksi Stadion
Mahir Saglik will serve last of his 3-match ban for Vasas but his absence didn’t seem to slow them down last week in a 3-0 demolition of DVTK. If anyone had doubt about them sustaining their good start to the season It think it’s safe to say that they are real title contenders now.
Michael Oenning’s side narrowly defeated Paksi at home back in early September but I think it will be a struggle for them to escape with anything more than a point under the shadow of the nuclear plant.

Prediction: Paksi 1-1 Vasas

Szombathelyi Haladás (6th) vs Videoton FC (2nd)
at Káposztás utcai Stadion, Sopron

Géza Mészöly has been without injured striker David Williams since mid-October. Since then Haladás have placed their offensive hopes on last season’s offensive juggernaut Bálint Gaál and he hasn’t disappointed. Gaál has scored 4 goals in last five matches and six in 13 so far this season. Last season he amassed 7 goals in 26 appearances so the 25 year-old looks on course for a breakout year.
Haladás have scored one goal in each of the last five. They have one win in their last six, but they’re a team that can show up or check out depending on the day. This was illustrated best when they lost 1-0 at home to Gyirmót earlier this season and then turned around and beat Fradi 2-0 the next week.
Videoton come into this game on the back of consecutive wins for the first time since mid-September. They’re the only team in the league averaging over 2 goals scored per game.
They’ve won 3 of their last four with all three victories being clean sheets. I still can’t get over how good this team is offensively. Lazovic and Scepovic were quieted in terms of production last week, but still looked just as dangerous. Vidi’s defense has solidified even more throughout the course of the fall season as well.

Prediction: Haladás 1-2 Videoton

Újpest FC (7th) vs Debreceni VSC (8th)
at Széktói Stadion, Kecskemét

One of the things that Újpest manager Nebojša Vignjevic can be proud of is that his team can score goals consistently. Lilák have only been held off the score sheet just twice all season (both times at home, incredibly). Currently they’re unbeaten in 9 matches (8 of those being draws) and they have not been held without a goal in 11 consecutive games. Attacking midfielder Enis Bardhi has been a joy to watch this season. The diminutive Macedonian has 7 goals and 5 assists in NBI and started for his country against Spain this fall. He’s been a huge offensive catalyst in a team that has failed to close out games at the back end. Without the ability to add to their squad until the summer they will simply have to score more goals to stay competitive.
Enter Debrecen, who have scored just 1 goal in their last four matches and haven’t scored in their last two. This could be just what Vignjevic’s boys need heading into the break. However, Leonel Pontes’ side have scored 7 goals in their last 5 away games. They did beat Újpest earlier this season 2-1 at home, but I can’t see them repeating that same feat in Kecskemét.  Barnburner anyone?

Prediction: Újpest 3-2 Debrecen

Ferencvárosi TC (4th) vs MTK Budapest (10th)
at Groupama Aréna

Ferencváros manager Thomas Doll will be back in the technical area for his team after serving a two-match ban. Left back Cristian Ramirez will be serving his final game of a three-match suspension. With just one win in their last four Fradi really need a win to close out the first half of the season. They are five points adrift of the top spot and could be as much as 8 if they can’t turn things around. Their attack looked unfocused, frantic (at times), and increasingly desperate as they saw the game slipping away against Mezőkövesd last week. It will be a boost for them to return home where only Videoton match them in offensive production with 24 goals
MTK are still the only team without a victory on the road this season. They’ve only scored four goals in 9 away games and leading scorer Sándor Torghelle is looking increasingly frustrated and risks becoming a non-factor. Other than Torghelle, only right back Patrik Poór has scored more than once this season for Vaszilisz Teodoru’s side.
Fradi will be out for blood in this one. They lost in the waning moments against 10-man MTK earlier this season and they’ll want to make amends for that.

Prediction: Ferencvaros 3-1 MTK Budapest

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NBI round 18

NBI - round 18 review

This week had some memorable moments. Honvéd's Donát Zsótér showed his skill and determination with an incredible individual effort that illustrated Kispest's recent form. Dénes Szakály scored on a “no-look” lob for Paksi with the audacity of Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina, and Diósgyor goalkeeper Ivan Rados made a stunning, point blank reaction save to keep Vasas at bay until halftime. All this and more happened in NBI round 18 - read on.

Paks ‘goal-fest’ downs Haladás

Paksi FC 2-1 Szombathelyi Haladás
my prediction: Paksi 1-1 Haladás

Not since a 2-1 win over Diósgyor in mid-August have we seen this level of offensive production in Paks! All kidding aside, Paksi remained the only team that’s still undefeated at home this season with an impressive 2-1 win over visiting Haladás. The hosts struck first after an incisive run into the area from Dénes Szakály that drew a dubious trip from defender Stef Wils and Péter Solymosi didn’t hesitate to point to the spot. Tamás Koltai sent Márton Gyurján the other way and buried his penalty to give Paks the lead.
Later in the first half Bálint Gaál scored his fifth goal in seven games for Haladás as he chipped an accurate free kick beyond the reach of the poorly placed Szabolcs Kemenes and the sides were level - poor goalkeeping from the Paksi custodian.
Early in the second half, a great backheel from Janos Hahn set up Dávid Kulcsár inside the box but his drilled shot was expertly parried over by the alert Gyurján.
Ten minutes later it was the visitors who almost got a break when Barnabás Rácz pulled down a long ball from Peter Halmosi and played the ball to Sjoerd Ards in behind the defense. He looked a shade offside and his half-hearted attempt to score might have revealed his guilt, but play resumed. Ards collected his own rebound and, without an opening, he set up Rácz who followed him into the box but the shot went well over.
Haladás were made to rue that miss when the hosts’ winner came a minute later. Reminiscent of Zlatan’s goal against Everton on Sunday, Kristóf Papp looped a ball into the left channel and under heavy pressure from János Hegedus, Szakály hit an impossible lob that caught Gyurján by surprise as he watched it arc over his shoulder and bounce into the back of the net. Winner, maximum points, and out of the relegation zone.

Tujvel, Mező snuff out Fradi

Mezőkövesd Zsóry SE 2-0 Ferencváros TC
my prediction: Mezokovesd 1-1 Ferencváros

A dour Thomas Doll looked on from the stands as his expensively-built side was handed their fifth defeat of the season. Ferencváros looked anything but confident as they chopped and changed at half time looking for a rhythm that never came.
Mező boss Attila Pintér led the club to their first ever victory over Ferencváros, but it wasn’t an easy win. Early pressure from the champions led to some nervy moments for the hosts but Fradi were characteristically un-clinical in front of goal. Next it was Mezőkövesd who squandered a gilt-edged chance when Stipe Bacelic-Grgic played an angled pass that set Martin Streštik free on goal but he slowed and eventually side-footed embarrassingly wide.
Mező did get one before then break, however, as the hard-working Bacelic-Grgic played a useful ball in for Gábor Molnár who took advantage of shoddy defending and rolled the ball in side the near post for the lead.
Mezőkövesd goalkeeper Tomas Tujvel didn’t have much to do in terms of making a save in the first half, and early opportunities in the second half were off target by Fradi. He only made two saves all game but they were instrumental in getting his fifth clean sheet in seven matches.
A free kick by Streštik found the back of the net on 58 minutes, but it was indirect and rightfully ruled out.
Ferencváros keeper Dénes Dibusz gave his side a chance as he came off his line to make a great block on Tarmo Kink who had darted past more woeful defending.
Things went from bad to worse for Fradi when Mezőkövesd substitute Branko Pauljevic stripped Emir Dilaver at midfield and surged unhindered on goal. Defender Dominik Nagy dove bravely in front of the shot but the ball his his arm inside the box and Zsolt Szabó was quick point to the spot and then book Nagy for the infraction. Bacelic-Grgic cooly slotted his spot kick down the middle as Dibusz dove to his right.
Could this be the final nail in the coffin for Doll? A defeat at home to MTK could be the final straw in what can only be seen as a disappointing first half of the season by the champions.
For Attila Pintér’s Mezőkövesd, they’ve risen from the relegation zone in late September to a season-high fifth place.

Kispest run rampant over lifeless Gyirmót

Gyirmót FC Gyor 0-4 Budapest Honvéd
my prediction: Gyirmót 0-2 Honvéd

Gyirmót fell to their seventh consecutive defeat as Honvéd took advantage of their poor form with a comprehensive win in Gyor. Nothing exemplified Gyirmót’s dearth in attack than Csanád Novák’s early breakaway that ended as he was too nonchalant with his finish and the Honvéd defense caught up to him and cleared the ball from danger.
The visitors starting to come into the game, and a dangerous, right wing cross from Patrick Ikenne-King was just out of an unmarked Márton Eppel’s reach inside the six-yard box. The opener didn’t come until the second half and it was a sweet pass from Márk Koszta to Dániel Prosser who lashed home from a tight angle. 1-0 Kispest.
Gyirmót’s defending broke down ten minutes later as Prosser and Koszta combined to set up Dániel Gazdag who chipped home from close range. 2-0.
The avalanche had begun and Honvéd were well on their way. Ivan Lovric and Djordje Kamber combined headers on a 78th minute corner kick and it was Kamber's who scored Honvéd’s third goal with a close range nod.
Then, in one of the most bizarre sequences of the game, Donát Zsótér displayed his tenacity with an amazing individual effort to play his way out of four defenders before sending Gazdag through but his shot was kicked onto the post by the Gyrmót keeper. The rebound came back to Dusan Vasiljevic who set up Patrik Hidi who neatly curled a left footed shot back across the goal and inside the far post.
Gyirmót are now rooted to the bottom of the table, six points from safety, while Honvéd kept pace with Vasas at the other end of the table.

Ujpest extend unbeaten run to 9

MTK Budapest 1-1 Újpest FC
my prediction: MTK Budapest 2-2 Újpest

It’s groundhog day for Újpest - in reference to the Bill Murray film where he wakes up every day and he relives the same day over and over again. Nebojsa Vignjevic must know what that’s like as his club played to their 8th draw in 9 matches. It’s becoming an epidemic and it could cost them a spot in Europe if they can’t figure out how to keep a lead.
Lilák started brightly, attacking MTK from the opening whistle. A nifty move by Nemanja Andric allowed him space to cross into the box for Enis Bardhi who could only poke the ball into the grateful arms of Danijel Petkovic. Bardhi made the breakthrough on the quarter hour, though, when he drifted away from a defender and ran onto Balázs Balogh’s lob into the area - a quick touch and it was 1-0.
Wave after wave of attack came from Újpest as the first half drew to a close, and Andric’s lovely trick to lose a defender led to a shot that beat Petkovic but came back off the far post - unlucky.
The equalizer for MTK came in the opening stages of the second half. József Kanta delivered a tantalizing corner that the Újpest defense was unable to deal with and Patrik Poór bundled home from close range.
MTK could have taken the lead a few minutes later when more sloppy defending allowed Dániel Gera to break free on a counter attack, but he fired over the bar from distance when it seemed easier to score.
Both sides had their chances in injury time but at that point fate had taken over. It was a disappointing draw for both sides who each could argue they deserved more.

Order restored at Vasas

Vasas SC 3-0 Diósgyori VTK
my prediction: Vasas 2-1 Diósgyor

The league leaders were without a win in their last four and feeling the heat from the chasing pack, while Diósgyor were enjoying a two-match run of victories and coming to Budapest with their tails up. However, Vasas were the ones that grabbed the game from the start and wouldn’t let go. DVTK were hemmed in their own half while the hosts penetrated their defense and had a number of narrow misses. The visitors almost took the lead against the run of play, however, as Diego Vela carved his way into space and worked himself a great opportunity but his shot was deflected and looped over the bar from close range. The best save of the game (if not the round) came just before the interval when a left wing cross from Szilveszter Hangya found Evgen Pavlov whose bullet header was expertly turned aside by Ivan Rados.
Everything changed just before the hour, though, when Vasas’ Benedek Murka attempted a hopeful shot from outside the area that got tangled in the feet of DVTK left back Milán Németh who sent the ball into his own goal. Vasas doubled their lead when a perfectly weighted free kick found Tamás Vaskó ghosting in at the far post where he swept it home for two-nil.
The hosts were in cruise control, and more good work by the Vasas attack forced Rados into another save to deny Martin Ádám’s header on 67 minutes.
The icing on the cake came on 75 minutes when a lovely one-two between Botond Király and Zsombor Berecz allowed the latter to fire past a stunned Rados from close range. It was thoroughly-deserved win by the league leaders who now look set to enter the winter break at the top.

Hadzic strike keeps pressure on leaders

Debreceni VSC 0-1 Videoton FC
my prediction: Debrecen 1-3 Videoton

Videoton got an important goal from Anel Hadzic to keep in step with Vasas who had already won earlier in the day. The visitors were dominant and could have won by a much larger margin but essentially couldn't find any breathing room until the end.
Vidi’s Danko Lazovic had his penalty appeals ignored after going down in the box from a challenge from behind. At the other end it was David Holman who connected with a chip into the area and touched the ball through the legs of Ádám Kovásik, but the keeper was able to turn acrobatically and tip the ball behind with Holman lurking.
In the second half, Debrecen keeper István Verpecz kept out a scorching drive from Lazovic with his face - quite impressive. I had to watch that one a few times.
Hadzic’s goal came just after the hour when he was first to a poor clearance and headed the ball into space before lashing his close range shot past Verpecz into the roof of the net.
It was Videoton’s first away win in over two months and it keeps them just a point off the pace heading in round 19.

PREVIEW - NBI Round 18

Ladies and gentleman, there are only two match days remaining before the winter break and this week’s NBI Round 18 preview will give you the scoop on what to watch for as each team looks to finish out the year on a high note.

After the dust settled last Saturday the title race was as tight as it’s been since 21 September when the top five teams were separated by just two points and Vasas had a slim, one-point lead at the top. Márton Eppel’s late winner for Honvéd was a key moment as it was the string that pulled everyone together.

The following tables show the ebb and flow of Vasas' lead which started after round 5 and reached its zenith in late October before coming back down to earth on Saturday.

21 September G Pts GD
Vasas SC 10 19 5
Ferencváros 10 18 8
Szombathelyi Haladás 10 18 3
Videoton FC 10 17 11
22 October G Pts GD
Vasas SC 13 28 11
Videoton FC 13 23 14
Ferencváros 13 22 7
Szombathelyi Haladás 13 21 1
26 November G Pts GD
Vasas SC 17 31 10
Videoton FC 17 30 19
Ferencváros 17 29 9
Budapest Honvéd 17 28 10

The peloton has now caught the breakaway pack and it will be an exciting finish to end the first half of the season.

Ten of the twelve team played in the Magyar Kupa this week with MTK, Haladás and Videoton joining Paksi and Debrecen as eliminated from the competition.  It will be interesting to see how the midweek games affect Saturday's contests.

Berg’s offense catching fire

Debreceni VSC (8th) vs Videoton FC (2nd)
at Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen

Videoton dominated MTK last week. If they hadn’t been as wasteful as they were they could have won by 3 or 4 to nil, but at times they were happy to cut through the opposition defense without providing the finish. There’s a cocky arrogance in the side that has shown both the good and the bad recently. For instance, watching Marko Scepovic and Krisztián Géresi stand and watch the opposition goalkeeper hash a save in his six-yard box when they should have been on top of the rebound was just brutal last week. They watched on as if they thought the goal would happen on its own. In contrast, the second half was brilliant. The clairvoyance between Scepovic and Danko Lazovic was palpable and created some entertaining football - including two very well-taken goals. Hopefully, for Henning Berg’s sake, the latter will overcome the former as they look to find consistency and consecutive victories for the first time since September. They’ve come close, but they haven’t won away from home since a 2-1 win over Honvéd on 24 September.

Leonel Pontes must be scratching his head in wonder at how his side managed to be sent packing without a point in Sopron last week. Debrecen had their chances with Dávid Holman and Robert Vittek the main culprits in term of profligacy. Pontes has only had two home games in the league in the last two months and hasn’t won in front of home support since early September. They’ve also been held goalless three times at home this season. Debrecen needed a late equalizer against MTK in round 16 and were held without a goal in the matches preceding and following that match meaning they’ve scored once in their last three. They’ll need something magical against Videoton to take anything from this one.

Prediction: Debrecen 1-3 Videoton - Vidi break Debrecen on the road.

Horváth’s Diósgyor surging

Vasas SC (1st) vs Diósgyori VTK (10th)
at Bozsik József Stadion, Budapest

Ferenc Horváth takes his side’s resurgence show back on the road after two “home” victories. Diósgyor have yet to officially win away from home this season despite traveling to neutral venues for their victories against Haladás and Paksi in recent weeks. This week’s test against league leaders Vasas will be a true test for Horváth’s squad who are returning to health and form all at once. They will be without skipper Ákos Elek and defender Zoltán Lipták who is a team co-leader in goals scored with four (2 in his last two games). Attacking midfielder István Bognár has come off the bench in the last two games with a broken hand but it’s possible that he might get his first start since round 14.
Super-sub Roland Ugrai scored an injury-time winner a fortnight ago and followed up his own missed penalty to score again in injury time on Saturday giving him two goals in his last 25 minutes played.

Despite leading the league and going unbeaten in their previous six matches, Vasas fell to Honvéd leaving them with just three points in their last four. The leaders missed the attacking threat of striker Mahir Saglik who served his first of a three-match ban on Saturday. Michael Oenning may need to rely upon Martin Ádám a bit more this game. He does lead the club with 6 goals and he last scored against MTK Budapest which was the last time Vasas won at home.

Prediction: Vasas SC 2-1 Diósgyor

Gyirmót looking to end run of futility

Gyirmót FC Gyor (12th) vs Budapest Honvéd (4th)
at Alcufer Stadion, Gyor

István Urbányi needs a win as his side are spinning out of control. Six consecutive defeats have seen Gyirmót fall from 9th and land at the bottom of the table with a crash. Their lack of offensive production hasn’t been a surprise. After scoring a season high 2 goals in their opening match this season they haven’t scored more than one goal in any game since. What helped them earlier this season was a run of five clean sheets where they picked up 11 of their 13 points. Since then they have shipped an average of 2 goals per game during their current run of miserable form.

Honvéd marked their intentions with a late victory over Vasas last week. They are four matches without defeat, winning three in that span. Red-hot goal scorer Davide Lanzafame seems to have cooled down over the last couple of weeks, but it was encouraging for Marco Rossi to see Márton Eppel get back on the score sheet - his first since scoring five in his first five matches this season.
Rossi gets Endre Botka back from suspension this week which will be a boost for his backline. Gyirmót shouldn’t threaten much, though, as they’ve scored just four goals in 8 home games.

Prediction: Gyirmót 0-2 Budapest Honvéd

Újpest put 8-match unbeaten run on the line

MTK Budapest (9th) vs Újpest FC (7th)
at Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Budapest

Újpest get back on the road this week, and that’s a good thing. Their last two victories have come on the road with their most recent against lowly Gyirmót two weeks ago. Their previous win was back in mid-August. This is a problem for Nebojša Vignjevic who has seen his team squander valuable points this season. They must improve defensively as their lack of concentration has turned victories into draws during their bittersweet eight-match unbeaten run. Lilák were without Souleymane Diarra who was banned after collecting five yellow cards but he’s likely to make a return in Saturday’s derby.  Also, Kylian Hazard looks to be recovering well from his knee injury and could return for Újpest in February.

MTK return home to try and end a four-match run without a victory after being outclassed against Videoton last week. Sándor Torghelle had returned from suspension against Vidi but he was isolated and rendered ineffective for most of the game. He’s played much better at home and should be relishing the chance to take advantage of Újpest’s porous defense. These two clubs battled to a goalless draw in their first meeting of the season back in late August but I don’t see a similar result on the cards. Even though they've scored more than one goal only once in their last nine matches they always seem to keep things close - especially at home where they’re unbeaten in their last five.

Prediction: MTK Budapest 2-2 Újpest FC - Same, same, same.

Tujvel one to watch in Fradi clash

Mezőkövesd-Zsóry SE (6th) vs Ferencváros (3rd)
at Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

I’m really liking Mezőkövesd these days. They have put up a very respectable run of six matches unbeaten with four victories. Goalkeeper Tomas Tujvel has been nothing short of amazing, conceding just twice six matches and last week’s goal was a penalty. His confidence looks to be growing and he can enter this match with knowledge of his foe as he helped Mezo to a 2-2 draw at Groupama in August. They don’t have much going forward but Gábor Molnár looked lively against Újpest on Saturday. New striker Ulysse Diallo didn’t play last week but it will be interesting to see if he factors in this one. Attila Pintér’s squad is undefeated in their last three at home and another result against the champions would be massive for a side that was promoted last season from NBII.

Fradi did what they needed to do last week against Gyirmót, but it was far from the impressive, comprehensive victory that they hoped for. Both of their goals were unconventional as they labored to pick apart a team that they clearly outclassed in terms of talent. Yes, they picked up their first home clean sheet of the season, but is that something to celebrate against a team that have scored 8 goals all season?
At the other end, they don’t look like a team that is hitting on all cylinders. Own goals and penalties still get the desired result at the end of the day, but relying upon them isn’t a good strategy. Marco Djuricin has looked positive recently, scoring in each of his last two games, but Dániel Böde looks an imposter to his form earlier in the season. They're in need of some inspiration if they’re to take control of the league as expected.

Prediction: Mezőkövesd-Zsóry SE 1-1 Ferencváros - solid defending will frustrate Fradi again.

Haladás dive into the void in search of points

Paksi FC (11th) vs Szombathelyi Haladás (5th)
at Fehérvári úti Stadion, Paks

Paksi were dismantled by a superior Diósgyor last week, falling to defeat for just the second time in their last eight. It was the first time they’d been held off the score sheet since a late September goalless draw against MTK in Budapest. Aurél Csertoi’s squad will be back at home this week where they are still unbeaten. They’ve only conceded 5 goals this season at Fehérvári úti Stadion but, maybe just as importantly, they’ve only scored six. Paks have only been defeated in consecutive weeks just once this season (both were away matches, of course). Their lack of any real attacking threat is a worry for Paksi supporters but they’ve managed to stay within touching distance of safety. They’re just a point adrift of both DVTK and MTK who both have difficult matches this week as well. János Hahn has looked energized in recent matches yet has nothing to show for his industry in the last couple of games.

Haladás broke their recent run of bad results last week with a narrow 1-0 victory over Debrecen. It was a fortunate win for them as they seemed outplayed for long stretches, and their goal arrived against the run of play. Young goalkeeper Márton Gyurján looked solid in his debut for Hali with some great saves including an impressive stop on a Dávid Holman breakaway.
Bálint Gaál was held off the score sheet for the first time in four games despite having a couple of good opportunities. Also, defensive midfielder Bence Iszlai will miss Saturday’s contest for accumulating 5 yellow cards. Iszlai’s absence will leave a gaping hole in midfield as he’s not missed a single minute of action in the league this season.

Prediction: Paksi FC 1-1 Haladás - I can’t see either side taking too many risks in this one.

NBI round 17 review

NBI - round 17 review (part two)

Okay, as promised here's the second part of the NBI Round 17 review. You can read part one here.  Enjoy!

Hali return to winning ways

Szombathelyi Haladás 1-0 Debreceni VSC
my prediction: Haladás 2-1 Debrecen

Haladás and Debrecen played an exciting contest in which the points should have been shared to be fair. The visitors dominated the early stages but didn’t really cause any concern until the 18th minute. Ivan Bobko was left unmarked on the left side of the box, but he decided to slip a teasing ball ahead of Robert Vittek who was unable to reach it with the goal at his mercy. Ten minutes later Dávid Holman scampered down the right but his tight-angled shot was denied by a fine save from goalkeeper Márton Gyurján who was making his debut for Haladás. More pressure resulted in Ioan Filip getting a free header for Debrecen before the half but he directed it well over.
These were all chances the visitors would kick themselves for missing as Hali went ahead early in the second half. A floating Barnabás Rácz corner somehow eluded the rising combatants inside the box and was directed home with a stooping header from Sjoerd Ards. Branislav Danilovic was rooted to spot - no chance.
Gyurján came up big for Haladás as he stopped Holman again - this time on a breakaway in the 65th minute. Later Zsolt Horváth was adjudged to have timed his run perfectly to be sent in behind the protesting Hali defense. His shot beat Gyurján but hit the post and trickled across the goalmouth before being cleared.
More action, this time at the other end as Peter Halmosi played a clever chip ahead of Bálint Gaál who unleashed a right-footed shot that fizzed past the far post five minutes from time.
Another flurry of action in the Haladás area ended without any profit and the hosts held out for the points.

Pauljevic earns Mező a point

Újpest FC 1-1 Mezőkövesd-Zsory SE
my prediction: Újpest 2-1 Mezőkövesd

Újpest were hoping to chalk up another win after getting their first victory since mid-August last week, but their defense let them down in the second half as another lead slipped from their grasp.
The first half was marked by lethargy and half-chances. The only real moment of excitement was a headed free kick that found the back of the net for Mezőkövesd but it was ruled out (rightly) by the assistant referee whose flag was already up. The cheeky Mező skipper András Vági waved his finger at the officials but replays showed he was clearly offside. Then, on 36 minutes, Enis Bardhi tried an ambitious free kick from 40 yards that didn’t miss by much.
In the opening stages of the second half, Bardhi went up for a headed cross in the area but was dragged to the floor by Dávid Hudák and a penalty was given by Mr. Andó-Szabó. Nemanja Andric sent goalkeeper Tomas Tujvel the wrong way and buried the penalty to give the hosts the lead. But, like in so many other matches this season, Újpest couldn’t hold on. In fact, it took just a few minutes for their defense to break down. A long ball was played down the left channel that Gábor Molnár ran onto leaving a trail of bewildered defenders in his wake. As Dávid Banai came off his line to challenge him Molnár touched the ball to his right where an ecstatic Branko Pauljevic almost hashed the opportunity but he found the roof of the net from six yards.
Andric had a gilt-edged chance to put Lilák back in front later in the half when Bálazs Balogh fed him a slide-rule pass into the area. The Serbian fired past Tujvel but off the post. Andric stood there in disbelief, mirroring the home support who were left frustrated once again.

Lazovic double puts Vidi on the cusp

Videoton 2-0 MTK Budapest
my prediction: Videoton 4-1 MTK Budapest

In the late game at the glorious Pancho Aréna, aglow with a bright green pitch and the majestic orange splayed colonnades that set a unique backdrop, Videoton and their usual 1,400 or so supporters played host to MTK. Vidi had the better chances out of the gates and a flowing move between Danko Lazovik and Marko Scepovic almost created the opener. Lazovik played Scepovic deep down the right and ran through the middle to pounce on the return pass across the the top of the area and smashed it on goal. The keeper spilled the save but Scepovic and Krisztián Géresi never followed the shot and the chance was lost. Miserable.
Then, on the half hour, Lazovik struck a sweet free kick that came of the bar and fell to Roland Juhász who headed over from 8 yards out. Unforgivable.
Minute 64 was the next missed opportunity by the hosts as Scepovic chased another long ball down the right flank before setting up Kristian Geresi at the top of the area to screw his shot wide of the far post. Head in hands.
The opener came with an amusing prelude as MTK’s Sándor Torghelle scrambled to control a loose ball at midfield before being knocked flat on his back side by Stopira. What followed was a great team move. The ball was moved out to István Kovacs who played a pinpoint ball over the top to the outside of Scepovic’s right boot that set up Lazovic with a scorching volley - pandemonium.
Scepovic was at it again in the final moments as he stripped Dragan Vukmir and fed Lazovic with a sweet pass into space. Lazovic dribbled and darted in and around Ádám Vass before rifling a shot that went through the hands of the keeper and in. Henning Berg’s side are now just a point off the pace. Wow, what a league! Three points separate the top four sides after 17 games.

NBI - round 17 review (part one)

It was another compelling weekend in Hungarian football. The script-writers have decided to create a frustrating, yet enthralling congestion at the top of the table that will only become more intriguing in the last two weeks before the winter break. It was a banner week for me as I predicted three of six correctly - an impressive feat for sure during this crazy season.
Here is part one of my review this week:

Kispest reel in Vasas at top

Budapest Honvéd 2-1 Vasas SC
my prediction: Honvéd 1-2 Vasas

Honvéd decided to be fashionably late to the “injury time drama” party, coming up with their own fireworks this week as they set aside the league leaders at home. Patrick Ikenne-King had the best chances on either side of the break. The Honvéd winger’s first chance came toward the end of the opening half when Filip Holender floated a left wing cross to a wide open Ikenne-King who volleyed a dipping shot wide of Gergely Nagy’s right hand post. In the opening minute of the second half it was Ikenne-King who took advantage of a failed Vasas clearance in their box and he lashed a goal-bound drive but was denied by the keeper’s quick right foot.
Honvéd continued to apply pressure but it was Vasas who struck first. On 71 minutes Vasas skipper Mohamed Remeli surged into the area and seemed to stumble with the ball escaping his control, but Evgen Pavlov was alert enough to run onto the stray ball and thump it past the stranded Grof. 1-0 to Vasas.
Honvéd leveled ten minutes later, however, when an inswinging corner from Dániel Prosser curled wickedly right at the keeper who misjudged it and couldn’t keep it out.
The winner came in injury time as a long Lanzafame free kick found Márton Eppel running through unmarked and he cooly side-footed past Nagy before wheeling away in delight.


Diósgyor crawl out of relegation zone

Diósgyori VTK 2-0 Paksi FC
my prediction: DVTK 1-1 Paksi

Ferenc Horváth will be delighted with his side’s first consecutive wins since the start of the season. With players coming back from injury, we may see a new DVTK in the second half of the season and this recent resurgence might be a portent of what’s to come.
Diósgyor started the game with intent. On the quarter hour Nono’s free kick rattled the bar. The loose ball was chased down by Zoltán Liptak who hooked the ball back into the area only for Patrik Bacsa to nod wide of the far post.
János Hahn almost got the visitors on the board with a long-range drive on 55 minutes that was pushed away by the DVTK keeper.
Diósgyor deservedly went ahead on 59 minutes when Liptak glanced a Nono corner past the keeper from a tight angle. The hosts doubled their lead late when substitute Roland Ugrai was brought down in the area by Paks captain Zsolt Gévay. Ugrai’s penalty was saved by Szabolcs Kemenes but the rebound fell fortuitously back to Ugrai who swept it home easily with the second attempt.

Champs get job done to close in on leaders

Ferencváros 2-0 Gyirmót
my prediction: Ferencváros 3-0 Gyirmót

After five consecutive defeats, Gyirmót manager István Urbányi decided to hand goalkeeper Edvárd Rusák his debut on Saturday at Groupama Aréna. That’s tantamount to throwing the 22 year-old to the wolves. Good thing for the young stopper Fradi weren’t that hungry. In fact, the visitors has the first real chance in this one. In the 17th minute Leandro made a poor back pass that was tracked down by Norbert Csiki who cut inside and forced Dénes Dibusz into making a spectacular save at full stretch. Fradi took over after getting settled and created chances but they needed time to adjust their sights as their attempts never troubled the Gyor keeper in the first half.
The champions finally took the lead when Seung-Woo Ryu got a touch to a ball in a goalmouth scramble and it deflected off the head of Ádám Présinger and back across goal leaving Rusák flat footed. 1-0. Dániel Böde almost doubled the lead just before the hour. A deep cross from Leandro found the Hungary international rising above a defender to head on target but Rusák was there to push it away. However, a few minutes later Marco Djuricin hit a skidding drive from distance that somehow beat Rusák at the far post. All in all it was good win for Ferencváros as they kept their first clean sheet at home this season. However, moving forward, an own goal and a deflected long shot shouldn't be their main staple in terms of offense against a team like Gyirmót at home.

PREVIEW: NBI round 17

Even though it’s Thanksgiving week here in the US, I’ve still managed to find the time for a ‘quick’ preview of Saturday’s games. Enjoy!

Unless you’ve been living in a hole somewhere recently you must have noticed the Hungarian NBI season this year. Last week alone had enough shining moments to attract even the most passive football aficionado. This season has everything - a packed table, a legitimate underdog, and some amazing individual feats occurring on a weekly basis.
This week there are battles at both the top and bottom of the table, key players (and a manager) banned, and plenty of anticipation for the spectacular to occur. Read on for a preview of each of the six game slated for Saturday

Kispest look to close gap on leaders

Budapest Honvéd (4th) vs Vasas SC (1st)
at Bozsik József Stadion, Kispest

Honvéd came from behind to draw against Paksi last week. As disappointing as it was to drop points, Marco Rossi’s side will pay for their lack of discipline. Skipper Patrik Hidi and right back Endre Botka are banned after amassing 5 yellow cards. Botka’s absence will be felt as both games he hasn’t featured in this season were defeats. Honvéd are unbeaten in their last three but they haven’t done well against the top sides this season. Their last meeting with league-leaders Vasas ended in a 2-0 defeat. Other recent defeats have been against Ferencváros (3rd), Videoton (2nd) and Mezőkövesd (5th) - not a good omen as they prepare to host the pacesetters.
Vasas got their own bad news this week as forward Mahir Saglik was handed a three-match ban for his dismissal against Ferencváros at the weekend. The Turkish forward has been in good form with four goals in his last five matches. However, Vasas have won five of eight without Saglik starting and he wasn’t in the squad when they beat Honvéd in their last meeting.
Vasas are unbeaten in their last six, on a run of 3 draws, and have scored 14 goals in last 6 games. István Ferenczi scored two goals in 12 minutes in his first appearance last week. The 39-year old ex-Ferencváros forward led the way in an inspiring performance that led Vasas to an important 2-2 draw against the champions.

Prediction: Budapest Honvéd 1-2 Vasas - Zsombor Berecz and Mohamed Remeli to carve open a depleted Honvéd back line.

Teams desperate for victory in relegation six-pointer

Diósgyori VTK (11th) vs Paksi FC (10th)
at Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

DVTK move from one temporary home to another this week as they shift to Mezőkövesd for this week’s match. Their excursion to Debrecen last week proved favorable as they ended a three-game skid with a victory that pulled them off the bottom of the table. It was the first time they weren’t propping up the table since 20 September. Ferenc Horváth looks to be getting some of his troops back as Márk Tamás was back in training this week. Tamás has been out with injury since late September. István Bognár came off the bench last game with a cast on his broken hand and looked great last week. Look for him to start on Saturday. Diósgyor are a better team than their record reflects. They have scored 10 goals in their last 5 matches and should continue improving defensively as players return from injury. In their last match against Paks they disappointingly conceded two late goals to fall 2-1. They’ll want to set the record straight this week.

Aurél Csertoi has done wonders with Paksi this season. With just one defeat in their last 8 matches they have stayed above the drop zone by grinding out results. They’re currently on an impressive unbeaten run in which they picked up points against Újpest and Honvéd at home while defeating Ferencváros away. They are undefeated at home, but their 7 draws and 6 goals scored in eight matches conveys a conservative style. However, they play a much more open game on the road. Their recent results have only increased their confidence and that should serve them well in the weeks to come.
Forward János Hahn has scored twice in Paks’ last four matches to level László Bartha as the team’s leading scorer with 4 goals, but Bartha hasn’t found the net since mid-October.

Prediction: Diósgyori VTK 1-1 Paksi FC

Limping Fradi look to return to winning ways

Ferencváros (3rd) vs Gyirmót FC Gyor (12th)
at Groupama Aréna, Budapest

One might think that returning home would be a comfort to most clubs, but Ferencváros have conceded more goals on their own pitch (15) than any other club in the league. To add to their recent misery, left back Cristian Ramirez has been banned for 3 matches for stamping on an opponent in last week’s sensational derby against Vasas. Thomas Doll also received a two-match ban for his antics on the touchline and will watch Saturday’s game from the stands. Despite their defensive woes they have scored 9 goals in their last four games. They did defeat Gyirmót 1-0 away last time they met but it wasn’t anything to write home about. Doll has a strong rotation in his back line and should be able to cope without Ramirez in theory, but implementing a “fortress mentality” will get harder unless they can stop the flow of goals at home - especially against the likes of Gyor.

Gyirmót have reached the bottom with a thud because, well, they’ve been playing like a bottom team. Their last minute defeat to Újpest last week had made it five on the trot, ending Lilák’s run of six draws. They’ve conceded 8 goals in their last three and have scored just 2 in their last 5. They’re even worse on the road, scoring just 1 in their last 5 away matches.

Prediction: Ferencváros 3-0 Gyirmót - Fradi claim their first clean sheet at home.

Haladás seeking safe harbor to patch sinking ship

Szombathelyi Haladás (7th) vs Debreceni VSC (8th)
at Soproni Városi Stadion, Sopron

Haladás are having a bit of an identity crisis. Since their four-match winning run in the early stages of the campaign they’ve been somewhat inconsistent. They’re a team that could be kept off the score sheet and lose to Gyirmót at home one week, and then defeat Ferencváros the next. Most recently they’re without a victory in four, scoring just 3 goals and conceding 8 in that span. Bálint Gaál continued his purple patch in front of goal last week in a losing effort. He scored his fourth goal in his last five games. Haladás have only lost once at home, but Debrecen are hot on their heels and will be hoping to leapfrog them this week.

Leonel Pontes’ side come into this one as road warriors - undefeated away from home in their last four. They’ve scored 5 and conceded 5 in their last five matches. Dávid Holman continued his torrid form with stunning late leveler against MTK last week. He’s now scored four goals in his last six.

Prediction: Haladás 2-1 Debrecen - everything points to another draw here but I think Debrecen are on borrowed time away from home. Their luck runs out and Hali get the points.

Windecker goal wakes sleeping giant

Újpest FC (6th) vs Mezőkövesd-Zsory SE (5th)
at Széktói Stadion, Kecskemét

Nebojša Vignjevic’s side returns home this week with their first 3-point haul since mid-August. Jozsef Windecker’s injury time strike assured Újpest of the victory in a dramatic finish in Gyor, and should give them the spark they need to finally start reaching their potential. Újpest haven't won at home since a 3-1 win over Gyirmót on 13 August, and Vignjevic will he looking to keep the good times rolling against Mezőkövesd on Saturday. Enis Bardhi had two assists last week, adding to his impressive offensive contribution this season. Windecker’s winner was his second goal in as many games, and it had to be encouraging for János Lázok to get back on the score sheet - his first in three games.

Mezőkövesd will be tough opposition for their hosts this week. Impressively, they have conceded just 1 goal in their last five matches. They’re also unbeaten and not scored upon in their last two away matches. Currently fifth on the table, after being as low as 11th in late September, Attila Pintér can be buoyed by his squad’s impressive recent form - a lot of which can be attributed to goalkeeper Tomáš Tujvel’s form. Since replacing Dávid Dombó at the club’s low point, Tujvel had gone 387 minutes before conceding Marko Scepovic’s equalizer against Videoton last week.
Marek Streštik’s late winner against Videoton was the forward’s first goal since 10 September but it ensured Mezőkövesd’s fourth victory in their last five.
Prediction: Újpest 2-1 Mezőkövesd - Lilák end Mezőkövesd renaissance

Vidi looking for revenge against MTK

Videoton FC (2nd) vs MTK Budapest (9th)
at Puskás Akadémia Pancho Aréna, Felcsút

Henning Berg has to be in a foul mood after watching his side fall to Mezőkövesd despite outplaying them for long stretches. Videoton are also looking to make amends for a similar kind of defeat the last time they played MTK which ended 1-0 thanks to a Sándor Torghelle header midway through the second half in mid-August.

Vidi have been spectacular at home, scoring 22 goals and picking up 16 points in 8 games. They’ve outscored their opponents 9-1 in their last two home games. Marko Scepovic has been magnificent, scoring 5 goals in his last five. They have so many weapons it’s no wonder they’ve only been kept off the score sheet just once this season.

MTK seemed to be heading toward their fifth consecutive home win last week when a late Dávid Holman strike left them with a subdued point at the New Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium. They were without striker Sándor Torghelle who was serving a one-match ban for accumulating 5 yellow cards. They needed the points at home because away days have been as dry as the Sahara Desert for them. MTK have only scored four goals are the only team without a victory away from home.

Prediction: Videoton 4-1 MTK Budapest - Berg’s boys bounce back!