NBI - Round 21 preview

Last week we welcomed NBI football back into our lives and it didn’t disappoint. The plot thickened at the top of the table as Ferencváros fell further behind the leading pack. Videoton easily brushed aside Újpest as Fradi dropped points at Debrecen heaping more pressure on the champions. With Vasas’s match against Haladás postponed it was up to Honvéd to keep pace at the top and that they did, albeit unimpressively. Join us this week in witnessing the drama unfold which will include a mouthwatering tie between champions Ferencváros and league pacesetters Videoton. Victory for Fradi could signal a positive turn in their fortunes while defeat could see them drop as far as fifth and springboard Vidi into a stronger pole position at the top.

Budapest Honvéd (2nd) vs Debrecen (9th)

at Bozsik József Stadion

Marco Rossi’s side continued their blitz through the league with an important 2-1 win over MTK last week, making it six victories in their last seven matches. It was a solid result at a place that had been difficult for other teams to pick up points recently. MTK hadn’t lost at home since early August, and Márton Eppel’s second half penalty ended that streak and allowed Honvéd to keep in stride with Videoton at the top. Davide Lanzafame looked energetic, taking five shots and scoring his first league goal since early November. George Ikenne-King was also impressive. His pace and industry on the wing opened up opportunities for his teammates throughout the game. Honvéd have the makings of a championship side and if they can continue to take maximum points against the lower sides they will be in the hunt as May approaches. Since their lost to Ferencváros in round 13 they’ve quietly risen from fifth place to sharing the spotlight at the top of the table.
Debrecen gave Ferencváros a rude awakening last week as they stifled the champions’ newly-stocked team in a goalless draw at Nagyerdei Stadion. Goalkeeper Branislav Danilovic was impressive in goal for Leonel Pontes’ side, registering their first clean sheet in five games. The problem for Debrecen, however, continues to be the lack of a pure goal-scorer. Dávid Holman and Frank Feltscher showed flashes of an attack but they never really looked like scoring last week.
Honvéd have scored in every game since a goalless draw against Gyirmót back on 25 August. One just might be enough here. It was all they needed in round 10 when Lanzafame scored the only goal after just six minutes in a 1-0 win and, with the way Debrecen has struggled in front of the goal in recent weeks, the hosts should pick up another 3 points here.

Prediction: Budapest Honvéd 2-0 Debrecen

Key facts:
– The last three contests between these two clubs have been home matches for Debrecen and they’ve been kept off the scoresheet in each.
– Honvéd haven’t won at home against Debrecen since 2010
-The penalty spot has been a friend to Honvéd as they lead the league with 9 awarded to them (all converted) and just one against.
- Debrecen have scored one goal in their last six matches
– Honvéd have conceded just 3 goals in their last five home matches

Diósgyor (10th) vs MTK Budapest (11th)

at Városi Stadion, Mezőkövesd

What a crazy season it’s been in terms of stadium changes alone! Diósgyor suffered at the hands of Mezőkövesd last week and now return to the scene of the ‘crime’ to host MTK at the Városi Stadion. “Home” has been a nebulous place for Ferenc Horváth’s squad since they moved out of their regular stadium at the end of October. But they’ve done well in games at Városi, winning all three as the ‘home’ team so far. Against Mezo, Roland Ugrai’s dismissal before the break put them on the back foot early and they never recovered. There was very little to see in Horváth’s squad that was positive but they did play down a man for 54 minutes.
They’ll take on MTK who are the only team in the league to have yet to win away from home all season. MTK were cruelly handed their first home defeat last week against Honvéd. Playing with only ten men after Sándor Torghelle was sent off, they were sunk when Dániel Vadnai’s challenge was adjudged to be too harsh on Davide Lanzafame. Márton Eppel ended any hopes of a point when he converted from the spot for Honvéd with just 13 minutes remaining. Despite the impressive play of teenage midfielder Bálint Vogyicska, Zsolt Tamási’s side will be hurt with the loss of Torghelle up front. New-signing Yuri Kolomoets came on as a second half substitute last week and was mostly anonymous, though, one could argue he was just getting his feet wet and had little time to make an impact. For MTK it’s going to be difficult to win without a competent attack. They haven’t scored more than one goal in a league game since mid-October - four of six coming from Torghelle.
These two teams’ last meeting ended in a 1-0 victory for MTK in Budapest with Torghelle in the lineup but Patrik Poór getting the winner. Away from home it’s going to be difficult for MTK and with Diósgyor’s recent record as hosts at Városi Stadion I think they’ll have the edge here.

Prediction: Diósgyor 1-0 MTK Budapest

Key facts:
– Diósgyor haven’t lost to MTK at home since 2010
– MTK are the only league team that hasn’t won’t a game in their travels this season
– Diósgyor have won their last four home games in all competitions and have conceded just once in that span.

Paks (8th) vs Mezőkövesd (5th)

at Fehérvári úti stadion

This will be one of the more interesting games of the round and should garner a lot of attention. Paks are a calculating juggernaut who have refused to lose at their home ground. They are, in fact, the only team remaining in NBI who have yet to taste defeat in front of their home support.
They’ve ground out 7 draws and managed 3 victories in their ten games there, allowing a league lowest 6 goals. The didn’t look impressive last week in a goalless draw against Gyirmót who, despite propping up the table, created most of the chances and should have grabbed a winner on at least two occasions. Paks are another team at home, though, and should provide a stern test for Mezőkövesd.
On that note, a 3-0 win over Diósgyor was just what new Mezőkövesd boss Tomislav Sivic needed to keep the momentum going. They’ve been unstoppable at home and have found a way to get results on the road as well. Astonishingly, they’ve only had one defeat in their last nine games and their on the verge of overtaking Ferencváros in fourth place. Belá Balogh scored on his debut last week and Lazar Veselinovic came a hair’s breadth away from following suit. A team that’s succeeding with Ulysse Diallo on the bench is a formidable foe, but until someone can take down Paks in their own castle, it’s difficult to bet against them.

Prediction: Paks 1-1 Mezőkövesd

Key facts:
– Paks are the only remaining undefeated team at home in the league this season.
– Mezőkövesd have never defeated Paks in a competitive fixture

Haladás (7th) vs Újpest (6th)

at Káposztás utcai Stadion, Sopron

Haladás have been chomping at the bit to get back into action after their match against Vasas was postponed last week. They’ll be looking forward to seeing how their new attack will turn out with the absence of Balint Gaál up front. Géza Mészöly will probably look to new wingers Karol Mészaros and Funsho Bamgboye to spread the attack which may mean aging captain Péter Halmosi will feel his time is coming to a close at the club with the arrival of fresh talent. Target man, David Williams should be injury-free and ready to take Gaál’s spot up front which could tip the scales for Hali either way depending whether he’s in form or not.
Nebojša Vignjevic was visibly upset after their 5-1 defeat at Videoton last week but handled it with class. It was obvious he wasn’t happy with some of the officiating. They were second best on the day but didn’t deserve a thrashing. Souleymane Diarra’s antics and dismissal set the stage for a disappointing and lethargic final 25 minutes which Ūjpest’s defense was exposed and brutalized. Despite Lilák going up early, they continued the same storyline we’ve seen with them all season - they’re unable to hold a lead. I think Vignjevic will change a few things this week. They certainly missed the injured Jonathan Heris in the back, and József Windecker’s deliveries from midfield. Much will depend on how the team responds from this setback.

Prediction: Haladás 1-1 Újpest

Key facts:
– Újpest haven’t lost at Haladás in their last three trips, winning two.
– Haladás have score one goal in each of their last six games (Bálint Gaál scored five of them)
– Újpest’s defeat at Videoton last week was their first defeat in their last 11 league games

Vasas (3rd) vs Gyirmót (12th)

at Szusza Ferenc Stadium

Vasas dropped from the top spot for the first time since early August, but only because they didn’t have the chance to keep pace last week. Locked and loaded after they winter break, Vasas were ready to continue their fight for the top spot in the league when their fixture was cancelled due to poor pitch conditions. They’ll actually be in a better situation to start off on the right foot facing Gyirmót who have been the whipping boys of NBI lately. Vasas’ addition of Balint Gaál up front will only make them better and they have managed to keep the heart of the team that’s gotten them to where they are. Gyirmót did manage to beat them 1-0 in their first meeting this season so there will be some revenge in the mix here as well.
Gyirmót can be bolstered by a profitable performance last week as they grabbed just their first point in nine games. They still haven’t managed to find the back of the net but they kept their first clean sheet since late September thanks in part to the work of new goalkeeper Oleksandr Nad (from Honvéd). Manager István Urbányi got a good look at new striker Bebeto who exhibited a bit of flair which is a rare occurrence in Gyirmót football. Unfortunately they’ll be lining up against a Vasas team that’s rested and ready and I can’t see them creating too much problems for this season’s Cinderella story.

Prediction: Vasas 3-0 Gyirmót

Key facts:
– Gyirmót have scored a league lowest 8 goals so far this season.
– Vasas have only been defeated once at home this season.
– Vasas have defeated Gyirmót in their only two competitive home matches

Ferencváros (4th) vs Videoton (1st)

at Groupama Aréna

Is it too early to say that this is the ‘game of the season’ yet? Ferencváros slogged out of the gate last week with a lethargic performance against a side they should have easily dispatched. It’s true that they created chances and if not for the stellar goalkeeping of Branislav Danilovic they might have escaped with a win. But even talking in those terms is an indication at how far Fradi have fallen. The side Thomas Doll has assembled shouldn’t be “escaping” from anything - especially against a team like Debrecen. Perhaps things will be different as they return home this week. However, they’ve only won half of their games at Groupama and have conceded the most goals at home than any team in the league so far (16). That has to be music to the ears of their opponents this week who just put 5 past a fairly good team in Újpest. There is much settling that needs to occur with this club who added no less than 7 players in the latest transfer window.
For Videoton they’re flying high after a great result last week. Michael Oenning’s only job will be to keep his side’s feet on the ground as they step onto the pitch at the Groupama. Danko Lazovic and Marko Scepovic should be salivating at the chance to play Fradi in a season where they’ve seen some wide open games at home. These two clubs’ last few meeting have been quite conservative affairs with just 8 goals scored between them in their last five contests. This could be a very entertaining match to end the day with and there could be some goals in this one, but in the end I think Fradi will somehow pull it out in a wild one.

Prediction: Ferencváros 3-2 Videoton

Key facts:
– Ferencváros have scored 3 or more goals at home this season five times
– Only one team has scored more than two goals against Ferencváros this season - Újpest (3)
– Videoton have one just one of their last five away games

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NB I - Round 20 Review

The NBI came roaring back to life this weekend with plenty of action, goals, drama, and some naughty behavior that played a part in some of this week’s results. Read on!

Videoton 5-1 Újpest

My prediction: Videoton 2-1 Újpest

Videoton swept aside ten-man Újpest in a game that Serbian strike partners Danko Lazovic and Marko Scepovic had full control of. It wasn’t the result but the final score which caught most people’s attention at the Pancho Aréna. Újpest weren’t as bad as the scoreline suggested and, in fact, looked the more focused team in the early moments. Lilák grabbed the early lead when Mihailo Perovic glanced a looping header beyond the despairing dive of Vidi keeper Adám Kovácsik and into the far corner of the net just seven minutes in.
Videoton missed a gilt edged opportunity to respond when Asmir Suljic made a penetrating run behind the defense to latch onto a pinpoint Scepovic pass. Suljic rounded the keeper but drove his shot inexplicably past the far post with the goal begging.
The hosts wouldn’t waste anymore opportunities, however and soon were level when a deflected Scepovic pass reached Anel Hadzic who somehow bundled the bouncing ball beyond Szabolcs Balajcza for the equalizer. Vidi grabbed the lead before the hour when Suljic intercepted a poor pass and set the hosts on a quick counter that put Scepovic behind the defense. He easily beat Balajcza and Videoton were on their way.
More awful defending by Újpest allowed Scepovic the chance to set up Sujlic once more and this time the Bosnian took his chance and slotted easily past the keeper, 3-1.
The wheels began to fall off for Lilák and Souleymane Diarra’s dismissal just after the hour mark was the last straw. A frustrated Diarra kept hawking after Péter Solymosi after being booked earlier for a foul, and he was shown a second yellow for dissent leaving the visitors with little hope to get back into the game.
The hosts marched on and a brilliant back heel from Lazovic set up Scepovic to score their fourth. Stopira applied the gloss with his third of the season when he rifled home from a tight angle after being set up by new-boy Mirko Maric’s deft touch deep inside the box. It was a clinical performance from a team that look odds on to reclaim the title after a season’s absence.

Mezőkövesd 3-0 Diósgyor

My prediction: Mezőkövesd 2-0 Diósgyor

New Mezőkövesd manager Tomislav Sivic got his tenure off on the right foot with a comprehensive 3-0 over visiting Diòsgyör. His side got a bit of help after DVTK winger Roland Ugrai was dismissed for a second yellow before the break. The hosts were on the front foot for most of the opening stage and Ugrai’s cynical foul set up Mezo’s first goal. Marek Strestik’s curled free kick was met by new-signing Béla Balogh who announced his arrival with a firm header that bounced inside the near post to give Sivic’s side the lead on 37 minutes.
Diósgyor could have been level before the break if former Ferencváros midfielder Attila Busai didn’t get in the way of Diego Vela’s curling corner. Vela’s offering missed everyone and struck Busai’s feet on the goal line and bounced clear. It was a low moment for the midfielder who had been swapped for fan-favorite István Bognár during the winter break.
The hosts doubled their lead right on the hour when Gábor Molnár burst down the right side and fed Stipe Bacelic-Grgic who rifled home past Botond Antal. It was Bacelic-Grgic’s first touch after coming on for Branko Pauljevic less than a minute earlier.
Lazar Vezelinovic could have been the second debutant to open his account on the day but his header off of Strestik’s long cross was expertly saved by Antal on 78 minutes.
The game was finally put to bed when Molnár beat Antal to another dangerous cross from Strestik and poked it home from close range. The win gave the newly promoted side 30 points on the season. It’s hard to comprehend that Mezo are just a point off of Ferencváros this late in the campaign.

Gyirmót 0-0 Paks

My prediction: Gyirmót 1-1 Paks

Considering how both these teams have played in recent games this was never going to be a finely crafted sonnet of the ‘beautiful game’. Gyirmót is heading for relegation at the speed of sound, and Paks are used to grinding out results rather than putting on attacking clinics. Gyirmót pushed forward early but never really threatened. Former Honvéd keeper Oleksandr Nad started his first game since joining Gyirmót over the break. He was called into action midway through the first half when he needed to tip over an errant corner that might have found a way under the bar if not for his quick thinking. In first half injury time an ambitious bicycle kick from Gyirmót new signing Bebeto looked more impressive than it was dangerous as Paks goalkeeper, Péter Molnár, made a routine save to keep it out at his near post.
Neither side really seemed dangerous in this one as the better chances mostly came from set pieces, but even those were poorly executed and fizzled out.
The best opportunity for either side came four minutes from time when Patrik Vass cut inside from the right wing and made a mazy run inside the box before chipping a cross into the six-yard box. Substitute Csanád Novák was there to meet the ball with a glancing header but only into the waiting arms of Molnár. A share of the points was a fair result for both sides in this one.

MTK Budapest 1-2 Budapest Honvéd

My prediction: MTK Budapest 1-1 Budapest Honvéd

Honvéd survived a tough encounter against rivals MTK as a late, second half penalty gave them maximum points to stay on course with Videoton at the top of the league. MTK set their stall to frustrate and it was slow going in the opening minutes, but a warning shot from Márton Eppel required an alert save from MTK keeper Danijel Petkovic on 17 minutes. Later, it was Márk Koszta who played the ball off for Patrick Ikenne-King darting down the right side. Ikenne-King blasted a tight-angled shot that was kept out by Petkovic again. 
It wasn’t all one way traffic, however, and Sándor Torghelle was at the heart of the host’s best moves. He created some space just after the half hour and lashed a drive on goal with the outside of his right foot but it was easily absorbed by an alert Dávid Gróf in Honvéd’s goal.
Kispest got closer and it was Ikenne-King once more from the right, but he drove his low shot across the goal but just wide of the far post.
The hosts were held to long-range efforts that never really tested Gróf, and then the opener came for Honvéd just after the break. Ikenne-King was given a lot of time on the ball inside the box and he held it long enough for Davide Lanzafame to find a seam. Ikenne-King found his target and Lanzafame turned and poked the ball into the roof of the net from close range to bag his 8th goal of the season in fine fashion.
MTK wouldn’t be kept off the scoresheet at home and Bálint Vogyicska had a moment of brilliance with a nimble run into the area but was brought down by a Honvéd defender. Torghelle confidently stepped up and beat Gróf despite the keeper guessing the right side.
Things went pear-shaped for MTK when József Kanta and then Torghelle clashed with Dániel Gazdag who went down in a heap. Replays showed Torghelle lashing out with his left arm and he was shown a straight red for violent conduct. This didn’t sit well with the veteran as he hotly contested Csaba Pintér’s decision, arguing that he himself was hit in the mouth. Drama ensued but Sanyi eventually accepted his marching orders and headed for an early shower.
Despite playing with a man down, MTK played with grit and forced Gróf to come off his line aggressively to collect a couple of dangerous through balls.
The winner came from a questionable penalty as Lanzafame collected a looping cross inside the area and fell over as MTK defender Dániel Vadnai got his foot to the ball to clear it. Márton Eppel drilled the spot kick right down the middle as Petkovic dove to his left and Honvéd had the lead with 13 minutes remaining.
Honvéd had to hold on in the final stages despite having the man advantage and a late corner set off warning signs as Myke just missed a header at the far post. It wasn’t Honvéd’s best performance of the season and they seemed to miss Endre Botka on the right side but they got the points and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

Debrecen 0-0 Ferencváros

My prediction: Debrecen 0-2 Ferencváros

The final match of the day should have been a showpiece for Thomas Doll’s stockpile of new signings at Ferencváros. Instead, the match sputtered, coughed and it looked as if nothing had changed for the champions in a goalless draw at 10th place Debrecen.
It’s not to say Fradi didn’t have their chances. Tamás Hajnal’s free kick found the head of Emir Dilaver just 8 minutes in but the Austrian could only head over the bar despite being virtually unchallenged at the top of the six-yard box.
Later in the first half, another great pass from Hajnal found András Radó drifting away from the defense but he waited too long and his tight-angled shot was blocked by Branislav Danilovic at his near post.
Hajnal continued to provide quality deliveries and a 34th minute corner evaded everyone including a missed punch by Danilovic. The ball fell to Julian Koch at the far post but the Doll’s new right back couldn’t react fast enough to turn the ball in for a first half lead. At the other end, Debrecen’s new signing Frank Feltscher almost beat Dénes Dibusz with a drilled effort from distance, but the Fradi keeper somehow got a hand to the shot and kept it out.
The second half started brightly for Ferencváros with another of Doll’s new signings pluming his feathers. Amadou Moutari strutted down the right side and cut inside a defender before smashing a tight-angled shot off the outside of the near post on 52 minutes.
Despite some horrible defending by the champions they emerged unscathed as Debrecen were unable to get their shots on target. János Ferenczi fired over the bar after a great first touch put him in a fine position on 57 minutes, and then Dávid Holman couldn’t turn a great pass from Hyun-jun Suk on frame from 15 yards. A better team would have made Fradi pay dearly.
At the other end Ferencváros mirrored their opponents profligacy when Gergő Lovrencsics teed up Radó with another great chance but it was drilled right into the arms of the keeper. Their best chance came with two minutes remaining when a Janek Sternberg free kick caused havoc inside the Debrecen box. The initial offering pinballed between a couple of players before Oliver Hüsing made a right-footed lunge that was expertly blocked by Danilovic. Radó’s follow-up shot was blocked and as Sternberg came into the area to control the loose ball it looked as if he was upended by Aleksandar Jovanovic but no penalty was called - rightfully so, perhaps, as replays showed he nicked the ball before crashing into the legs of the big German.
Leonel Pontes will be elated that his side were able to earn a point against the champions while Thomas Doll heads back to the pressure cooker of expectant supporters who want more.
This is the first time Ferencváros have been out of the top 3 this late in the season since the 2013/14 campaign when Debrecen won the league. Who could have imagined that Mezőkövesd could be ahead of Ferencváros in February? Now, before you start hoarding bottled water and preparing for the end of the world, it would take two unlikely results next week for us to witness a fifth-placed Fradi, but not much has gone according to plan this season. Has it? Stay tuned.

My player of the round: Marko Scepovic (Videoton)

NBI - round 20 preview

Listen to the first Hungarian football podcast - iTunes & Soundcloud 

So, in case you’ve been counting (and I have) it will have been 69 days 23 hours and 49 minutes at kickoff on Saturday since we’ve last seen live Hungarian top flight football. That’s a long time for most people, but for some of you that’s not a big deal. You’re the ones who celebrated the holidays, rang in the New Year, took in a film or binge-watched a Netflix Original series … but come on! Ten weeks feels like an eternity (at least to me). What’s happened in the last ten weeks? A new Star Wars movie was released, the U.S. got a new President, the New England Patriots won another Super Bowl, Cameroon won the African Cup of Nations, and Dmitri Payet left for France.

So much is happening in the world of sports, why look into this relatively small league on the vast European landscape? Because this has been a drama-filled, roller-coaster campaign for NBI thus far. The first half of the season saw the likes of Vasas take the league by the throat early on before the chasing pack caught up to them - leaving a three way tie at the top of the table right as the league shut down for the holidays. Last season’s champions Ferencváros, who had nearly clinched the title at this point last season, are four points off the pace in fourth and under a lot of pressure to retain the title.
Join the few who have discovered the gem of the Nemzeti Bajnokság I, and gear up for the final 14 matches of the season. It’s going to be a great ride. Here are the reports ahead of each game this week.

Gyirmót (12th) vs Paks (8th)
at Alcufer Stadion

Gyirmót dropped into the relegation zone on 29 October and haven’t seen the light of day since. They have lost eight consecutive matches and have only scored twice in that span (dating back to 15 October). Leading scorer Dániel Sallói (2 goals) is already on his way back to Kansas City to get ready for the start of the MLS season, and with no one else stepping up as a goal threat the future looks bleak for Gyirmót. They did add a number of players over the break including Ukrainian winger Volodymyr Tanchyk who is the most intriguing if not the best of the new recruits. Tanchyk played regularly for Olimpic Donetsk who were fourth in the Premier Liga and will look to bring some pace and creativity to their attack.
The last time Gyor won at home was against Vasas but, impressive a result as that was, it was back in September. For István Urbányi and his squad it’s going to be more a question of damage control rather than searching for a way to survive the drop.
Paksi, on the other hand, are a team that impressed in the last few weeks before the break. Consecutive victories over Haladás and Vasas pulled them out of the relegation zone and into 9th place - 3 points clear of the red zone. János Hahn leads the way on offense (5 goals, 1 assist), scoring the winner against Vasas in their last league match. Their away form hasn’t been great but they did defeat Ferencváros at Groupama in early November.
Their first encounter with Gyirmot this season ended in a goalless draw at Paks. It was their first competitive meeting in over ten years, and it’s quite probable that a similar result will take place this week. There were only 7 goalless draws in 114 games in the first 19 rounds, however,so I’ll go for a low scoring draw.

Prediction: Gyirmót 1-1 Paksi

Key facts:
- No player on Gyirmót’s current roster has scored more than one league goal this season
- Gyirmót have scored just four goals in their nine home matches
- Paksi have lost just once in their last six league matches
- Gyirmót have not scored in over 372 minutes of competitive football

MTK Budapest (11th) vs Budapest Honvéd (2nd)
at Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium

New MTK supremo Zsolt Tamási survived the transfer window without losing his leading goal-scorer Sándor Torghelle while picking up another attacker in January. Yuri Kolomoets moved from struggling Vorskla Poltava in the Ukrainian Premier Liga and the 26 year-old striker promptly scored for MTK on his debut - a 2-0 friendly win against Senica. As bad as MTK have been on the road this season, they’ve gone unbeaten at home in their last six. They also haven’t won in their last six games and that simply comes down to a lack of goals. The last time MTK scored more than one goal in a league match was in their 3-2 defeat at Vasas in mid-October. Tamási is hoping that Kolomoets (7 goals in 14 games with Vorskla this season) can help contribute to the cause.
Honvéd ended the first half of the season with a six-match unbeaten run including five victories to put them joint top of the league. Impressively, they’ve only conceded 3 goals in that stretch as well. However, Honvéd’s winter break business has left me scratching my head. They allowed their hottest goal-scorer Dániel Prosser to join NBII side Puskás Akedémia. Perhaps it was a move necessitated by market value, but Prosser had scored three goals in Honvéd’s last six contests and was a big factor in Kispest reaching the top spot in December. They looked very good to rattle the cage and challenge for their first title since 1993 but the jury is still out. They also parted ways with right back Endre Botka (to Fradi) and picked up Balázs Villám, who hasn’t played top flight football for two years.
These types of games are so hard to predict because, after such a long layoff, much will depend upon chemistry and mindset. MTK played five friendlies starting in January, and Honvéd just two, but Honvéd played competitive football last week in a 2-1 Magyar Kupa first leg defeat against Ferencváros. Davide Lanzafame was back on the scoresheet for the first time since ending his seven-match goal scoring run back in early November. Can Marco Rossi pull off a tactical masterpiece and lead this side to a title? Can they repeat their September 5-0 thrashing of MTK? I’m guessing not and it will start with a frustrating draw at the concrete palace.

MTK Budapest 1-1 Budapest Honvéd

Key facts:
- The home team has won 5 of the last six meetings between these two clubs
- MTK were winless in their last six league matches but had four draws
- MTK haven’t lost at home to Honvéd since 2011 and have only lost twice to them there in their last 19 meetings.

Mezőkövesd (6th) vs Diósgyor (9th)
at Mezőkövesd Városi Stadion

As the first half of the season came to a close many were talking about how impressive a job Attila Pintér had done at Mezőkövesd as they sat in sixth position in their first season back in the top flight. Pintér has since moved on to Puskás and his successor, Tomislav Sivic, has some mighty big shoes to fill. Their last two home matches were stuff of legend - victories over Videoton and Ferencváros were inspirational and added to the magic of this season’s competition. One major need for Mezo was the addition of a proven goal-scorer. Pintér brought in Ulysse Diallo who scored three goal in his first two games and then went quiet. There were rumors that his services were being peddled in Turkey but he wasn’t interested in making a change. Mezo did acquire 30 year-old Serbian striker Lazar Veselinovic from the K-League, replacing seldom-used Jan Vosahlik who returned home to the Czech Republic at FK Teplice.
A big boost for Mezőkövesd came in goalkeeper Tomas Tujvel who has kept five clean sheets in their last seven matches.
Diósgyor had a bit of a renaissance in their final four games of the first half. Home wins over Haladás, Paksi and Gyirmót might not seem impressive but they did they the job and picked up maximum points against teams fighting it out in the bottom half of the table. DVTK’s problems have come on their travels, however. They lost 7 of their 9 away games conceding a massive 23 goals. Ferenc Horváth did nothing to address this issue during the winter break. In fact, he lost his most potent attacker István Bognár in a swap deal to Ferencváros. It will be interesting to see how his replacement, Attila Busai, does in his place in central midfield.
I’m not expecting a stroll here for Mezőkövesd but they should still feel pretty confident heading into this one. The only match they played in since the break was a goalless first leg against Gyirmót in the cup. DVTK defeated Cegledi 1-0 on Valentines Day to advance in the cup as well - a rare away victory.

Prediction: Mezőkövesd 2-0 Diósgyor

Key facts:
- Mezőkövesd have won their last four league games at home, conceding just one goal in that span.
- DVTK haven't lost to Mezőkövesd in their last five meetings home or away
- Roland Ugrai scored his third goal in DVTK’s last five competitive matches in their midweek win over Cegledi.

Vasas SC (3rd) vs Szombathelyi Haladás (7th)
at Szusza Ferenc Stadium

Vasas were the darlings of the league in the autumn as they took a page out of Leicester City’s 2015/16 campaign and kept up the momentum of a strong start to being joint top of the league in December. Manager Michael Oenning went about his business during the winter break in the right way, keeping the majority of the players who got him where they are and adding a pinch of scoring up top. The addition of Bálint Gaál was nothing short of masterful for Vasas. The striker scored 6 goals in his last eight matches for Haladás and will bring to bear that form against his former side as the season gets back underway. Mahir Saglik, who missed the last three games of the autumn season due to suspension, will be back and that will do nothing but help their cause. He had scored four goals in five matches before his red card against Fradi.
Haladás have not won away in six matches and have lost their last four on the road. The loss of Gaál will hurt, but Gezá Mészöly has brought in a bouquet of attacking options that will be fun to watch. U-17 Nigerian World Champion winger Funsho Bamgboye has been brought in from Qatar, and Karol Mészáros was plucked from Debrecen’s dust bin. Also Zsolt Gajdos was brought in from Puskás to replace Sjoerd Ars who left for Fortuna Sittard in the Dutch Second Tier.
Vasas should return with complete confidence that they have the winning mentality and all the right pieces to make a sustained title run as the season goes on.

Prediction: Vasas 3-1 Haladás

Key facts:
- Vasas have won just once in their last six league matches
- Haladás have score one goal in each of their last six games (Bálint Gaál scored five of them)
- Vasas have never lost to Haladás at home (5W, 3D)

*UPDATE - the Vasas - Haladás match has been officially called off due to a bad pitch. 

Videoton (1st) vs Újpest FC (5th)
at Pancho Arená, Felcsút

In our latest podcast I was initially very skeptical of Videoton’s business over the break. Allowing league-leading goal scorer Róbert Feczesin to leave for Korea seemed daft for a team that has shown they have what it takes to challenge all rivals for the title this season. However, upon closer inspection, 30 year old Feczesin had scored six of his eight goals by early September and has only scored twice since then. The tandem of Danko Lazovic and Marko Scepovic have combined for 12 goals to make up for Feczesin’s drop off since then. Also, Krisztián Géresi has chimed in with 5 more so they had an abundance of scoring potential and Feczesin might have just been an expensive surplus to requirements.
Újpest did nothing over the break (as if they had a choice) but they can be proud of a solid display that put them in a good position to challenge for a Europa League qualification spot. Nebojša Vignjevic saw his team end a run of six draws with two victories in their last four matches. Lilák are unbeaten in ten and much of it has been down to the energy and leadership of 21 year old midfielder Enis Bardhi. The Macedonia international has been superb again this season with 8 league goals. Bardhi continued to show that he’s still in fine form with another goal in Ùjpest’s 4-1 cup win over Zalaegerszegi last week.
Look for Lilák to make a game of it, but their propensity to let up late goals will hurt them in this one.

Prediction Videoton 2-1 Ùjpest

Key facts:
- Videoton had the best home goal differential of any NBI club in the fall (+17)
- Vidi have not lost to Ùjpest at home since 2009 (8W, 3D)
- Ùjpest haven’t been defeated in their last 9 away days

Debrecen (10th) vs Ferencváros (4th)
at Nagyerdei Stadion

It’s out with the old and in with the new for champions Ferencváros who made significant changes to a side that has not met expectations this term. Fradi manager Thomas Doll will be out of excuses if his current side can’t produce for him now. With the best signing of the window (in my opinion) Fradi brought in Hungarian international Laszlo Kleinheisler on loan from Werder Bremen. With Dominik Nagy, Adam Pinter, and Cristian Ramirez all leaving for greener pastures, the champions needed to make some moves and they definitely brought in some talent. István Bognár was added from DVTK and Germans Julian Koch and Janek Sternberg were also brought on board. The question will be whether Doll can bring this talent together and erase the four-point gap from the top of the table. At this point last season Ferencváros practically had the league sewn up. Oh what a difference a year makes!
It’s probably a good thing they’re starting against Debrecen who are winless in five and have only scored one goal during that run. Leonel Pontes has seen his team go from being four points clear of the relegation zone to teetering on the edge of danger as the spring season begins. Leading scorer Dávid Holman has the potential to make a difference - especially from set pieces - but they will end up trying to hold off what should be a motivated Fradi side who will want to erase any speculation that they don’t have what it takes to repeat as champions.
Ferencváros hasn’t defeated Debrecen in their last two attempts on the road, but that should change here.

Prediction: Debrecen 0-2 Ferencváros

Key facts:
- Debrecen have scored one goal in their last five league matches
- Ferencváros had the worst away goal differential in the top five NBI places (-2)
- 3 of Fradi’s last five goals have either been own goals or penalties

Thanks to Gergely Marosi (Nemzeti Sport) for keeping me up to date and accurate on all fronts.

NBI week 19 review

Heading into the winter break, the final round of 2016 didn’t disappoint as three teams are now level at the top of OTP Bank Liga table. It’s been a thrilling ride with a number of twists and turns and round 19 was no different. Videoton and Honvéd finally caught Vasas at the top as the league leaders stumbled in Paks. Fradi’s punctuated their disappointing season with more lost points at home. Sándor Torghelle’s late, equalizing header continued MTK’s hoodoo over the champions. Read on for a complete review of the weekend’s results.

Budapest Honvéd 1-0 Mezőkövesd-Zsóry SE
My prediction: Budapest Honvéd 2-2 Mezőkövesd-Zsóry

Márton Eppel scored his seventh of the season to lead Kispest over visiting Mezőkövesd who themselves spurned a late chance to earn a share of the points. This contest didn’t have the offensive display I was hoping for but it was a key component in the current congestion at the top of the table. Both teams were on fire heading into this one but chances were few and far between in this one.
Davide Lanzafame returned to the Honvéd lineup and had all the chances in the first 45 minutes. He looked to make an immediate impact with an odd free kick routine on the quarter hour that fooled no one, including Mező goalkeeper Tomas Tujvel who dove to his right to push the shot away from danger. Lanzafame had another opportunity a few minutes later when a wild clearing attempt by Gergö Gohér fell kindly for the Italian who hit a wicked, dipping shot that was just barely tipped onto the bar by Tujvel and cleared. The last chance of the first half came off a Honvéd corner where Márk Koszta headed down for Lanzafame who couldn’t connect and Tujvel claimed the ball easily.
Early in the second half, Koszta and Lanzafame were wasteful with long range opportunities that didn’t trouble Tujvel and, just when it seemed that Honvéd had been sedated, they struck. Endre Botka stepped into a Mezo counter and intercepted a pass and drove down the right channel. With the visitors scrambling to get back, Botka curled a perfect cross to Eppel who beat Dávid Hudák to the ball and headed back across the goal where Tujvel’s fingertips at full stretch weren’t enough to keep it out.
Then, in injury time, Mezőkövesd had a glorious opportunity to level when a failed clearing attempt by Honvéd’s defense fell to Marek Streštik but, with the goal at his mercy, he inexplicably volleyed the ball behind him when it seemed easier to score.

Diósgyori VTK 1-0 Gyirmót FC Gyor
My prediction: Diósgyor 2-0 Gyirmót

As predicted, Diósgyor sent Gyirmót to an eighth consecutive defeat, but not without a fight. The visitors featured another aging custodian in 37 year-old Zsolt Sebők who fancies the 80’s sweatpant look (a la Gábor Király). András Simon had a glorious chance to put the visitors ahead on 15 minutes when he rose highest and glanced a curling corner kick just beyond the far post.
Shortly after, the hosts showed them how it’s done as they broke the deadlock on their first corner kick. Patrik Bacsa’s delivery was headed away to Diego Vela outside the area. The Spaniard unleashed what looked to be a manageable shot from distance but it fooled Zsolt Sebők and escaped his efforts to keep it out.
The visitors were undaunted and found ways to level the score but, as has been their main problem all season, they were unable to finish. Maté Kiss hit a sweet free kick that hit the outside of the post - a classic missed opportunity.
Sebők almost conceded another as he came off his line to claim a high free kick amidst a crowd of defenders. Diósgyor skipper Zoltán Lipták was first to the ball but headed just wide of the gaping goal.
Miklós Kitl played Lipták into the area on 42 minutes but his first touch was heavy and Sebők came off his line to claim it. With halftime approaching Lipták was hoping the third time was the charm as he was teed up in the area, but his tight-angled shot was expertly turned aside by Sebők.
A fine save from Ivan Rados denied Norbert Csiki from equalizing for Gyirmót off a free kick from 30 yards out. With time running out Rados was equal to another long-range attempt from Csiki but he couldn’t collect it. The spilled shot fell to Dániel Sallói whose follow-up shot wasn’t struck cleanly and flew well wide.
The defeat sent Gyirmót further into relegation certainty as they’re now 7 points adrift from the safety line.

Paksi FC 1-0 Vasas SC
My prediction: Paksi 1-1 Vasas

Vasas were frustrated by Paksi who did what they’ve done all season - succeed. The hosts frustrated the league leaders with some strong defending to win consecutive games for the first time this season. It was also Aurél Csertoi’s side’s fourth clean sheet at home this season.
Vasas heaped on the pressure in the first half and their best chance came through Evgen Pavlov who collected an incisive pass behind the defense with a well-timed run, but Péter Molnár came off his line well and made an equally impressive block.
The hosts first chance came when Dénes Szakály ran into a smart pass from Tamás Koltai inside the area, but his flubbed back heel attempt was easily shepherded away from danger.
Paks did get a break through before the break, but it wasn’t pretty. It was Koltai with another great cross for János Hahn who tried to flick the ball beyond Gergely Nagy with the outside of his foot. The ball was kicked into the Vasas keeper by a defender and Hahn was there to tap the ball over the line for the lead.
In the second half Vasas pushed for an equalizer that would never come. Mohamed Remili struck a free kick that flashed past Molnár’s right hand post. With time running out, Zsolt Korcsmar headed a free kick back across goal where Pavlov narrowly missed a tap in as he crashed the net.
As the pressure mounted, Paksi’s resolve grew and they nearly added another in the closing moments when substitute Richárd Vernes broke through with a counter attack and was denied by an expert reaction save from Nagy. Minutes later Vernes beat his defender again down the right side and slotted a dangerous low cross to Hahn at the far post, but Nagy was there to make the save again. The final whistle sparked relief and celebration from the Paksi dugout and stands alike.

Szombathelyi Haladás 1-1 Videoton FC
My prediction: Haladás 1-2 Videoton

Haladás were able to hold on to deny Videoton a third consecutive win after coming from behind early to draw level in the second half. The visitors grabbed an early lead when Anel Hadzic drilled a pinpoint cross to Marko Scepovic who opened up his hips and side-footed the ball back across the keeper and in for a 15th minute lead.
Krisztián Géresi almost doubled Vidi’s lead when he broke free down the left side but his left-footed shot skimmed past the far post.
Haladás came close when Szabolcs Schimmer delivered a right wing cross that was expertly controlled and volleyed by Péter Halmosi but Ádám Kovácsic got across his goal to block superbly.
In the opening seconds of the second half the visitors threatened again. This time it was Scepovic who provided Danko Lazovic with a great ball across the goalmouth but his attempted tap-in was somehow kept out by a sprawling Márton Gyurján.
The hosts started their ascendancy after Lazovic’s spurned chance and it culminated in the equalizer before the hour mark. Bálint Gaál lined up his free kick from 25 yards and he drilled it past the right side of the wall and somehow past Kovácsic who seemed to be in perfect position. It was Gaál’s fifth goal in his last six and he was clearly delighted with that one.
Videoton continued their quest for a second but were denied by the alert Gyurján on two occasions.
Haladás had their chance to win when the broke on a counter attack with 5 minutes remaining and a cross to a wide open Halmosi was headed right at the keeper. The Haladás skipper could only hold his head in his hands after that miss.
Not to be outdone, Vidi spurned one last chance when a looping free kick fell to Stopira at the far post but he didn’t time his sweep and the ball bounced away for a goal kick.
Both sides had their chances to take all the points but it wasn’t to be.

Újpest FC 2-0 Debreceni VSC
My prediction: Újpest 3-2 Debrecen

After missing their last seven games, Újpest goalkeeper Szabolcs Balajcza picked up right where he left off with two early saves in return to action with his club. The Lilák captain was sharp from the beginning and marshaled his defense well throughout. The hosts never really threatened in the opening 45 minutes, but Debrecen almost grabbed the lead heading into the interval. Dávid Holman broke free through the middle and had Balajcza leaning the other way but he couldn’t strike the ball cleanly and it flew past the near post.
Újpest opened the scoring early in the second half when Mihailo Perovic cut out to the right side and floated in a dangerous cross. Enis Bardhi and goalkeeper István Verpecz collided in mid-air allowing Nemanja Andric to sweep in and smash the ball home.
Holman had Debrecen’s best chance to equalize with a free kick but it dipped just over the bar from 30 yards.
Lilák put the result beyond doubt when a sweeping move that was started by Balázs Balogh’s slide-rule pass down the right channel to Andric who played it to Benjamin Cseke at the top of the area. Cseke played the ball to his left where Bardhi was unmarked and the Macedonia international fired it just inside the far post. It was a lovely goal and it extended Nebojša Vignjevic’s squad’s unbeaten run to ten games.

Ferencvárosi TC 1-1 MTK Budapest
My prediction: Ferencvaros 3-1 MTK Budapest

It was another disappointing result for Fradi as they looked toothless once again in front of goal. They were also forced to play the majority of the second half with 10 men after Vladan Cukic was dismissed for a second yellow card.
MTK almost drew fist blood when Patrik Poór played a long ball into the area for Sándor Torghelle who held off a defender but could only drag his shot wide of the far post.
Ferencváros did score first and it came from some good attacking movement but they needed a touch from an opposing defender to get the job done. Dániel Böde played a nice ball to Marco Djuricin who one-timed an angled ball in for Dominik Nagy, but defender Ákos Baki poked the ball into his own net in an attempt to break up the play with a sliding tackle.
Cukic’s reckless challenge on Dániel Gera was the turning point for Fradi as Sándor Andó-Szabó gave him his marching orders for a second yellow card.
Zoltán Gera’s curling free kick looked destined to nestle inside the far post but it was well-saved by Danijel Petkovic’s diving effort.
Then, at the other end, Jószef Kanta’s free kick found a familiar target in Torghelle who headed inside the near post for the equalizer.
MTK should have won a penalty later in the half when Darko Nikac’s close range shot was clearly kept out by Dominik Nagy’s arm, but their appeals fell on deaf ears.
Torghelle almost won it at the death for the visitors when he rose highest and met Ronald Takács' cross with a powerful header that fizzed just wide of the near post.
Boos were heard around the Groupama as the final whistle blew. Thomas Doll’s future may well hang in the balance over the break as the champions fail to take advantage of other results and remain four points adrift of the top.

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.