Ferencvaros Vs. Ludogorets: Match Report

Ferencvaros got their European campaign off to a positive start in front of a packed and expectant Groupama Arena on Wednesday evening thanks to a 2-1 win over Bulgarian champions Ludogorets. Goals from Tokmac Nguen and debutant Oleksandr Zubkov, sandwiched Jakub Swierczok’s first-half leveller to give Fradi a slender lead to take to Razgrad next week.

Ferencvaros, making their first appearance in Champions League Qualifying since 2016/17, could barely have wished for a better start to the game as Nguen opened the scoring after only 6 minutes. The Green Monsters, who were vocal throughout the game, had barely caught breathe after a rousing rendition of Himnusz before Nguen’s goal sent the crowd into raptures; the Norwegian showing deadly instincts to poke home a Lovrencsics cross from the right.

Buoyed by their early goal and the support of the crowd, Ferencvaros were positive in attack and looked to take the game to the visitors. The combination play of Lovrencsics and Zubkov down the right was a constant threat to Ludogorets, while goalscorer Nguen fluctuated between moments of brilliance and frustration in equal measure.

On the 8 minute mark Tamas Priskin missed the first of several gilt-edged chances on what would prove to be a frustrating evening for the former Watford striker.

Despite the misfiring Priskin, Ferencvaros were comfortable for the most part with Ihnatenko controlling the midfield. That was until around the midway point in the half when Fradi seemed to inexplicably switch off and allow sloppy errors to creep into their game.

On the half-hour mark, Ihnatenko, who had looked extremely composed up to that point gifted possession to Lukoki with a poor attempted pass out from defence. A couple of quick passes later and Tchibota fired off a shot that Dibusz could only parry out to the waiting Swierczok. 1-1 and the Groupama was silenced.

The concession of the goal rocked Ferencvaros who failed to regain their rhythm in the remainder of the half. Ludogorets, on the other hand, only grew in confidence and it was the hosts, so comfortable in the opening exchanges, who were the happier to hear the half-time whistle.
Bar the early goal, the second half followed a similar pattern to the first. Ferncvaros started brightly and again looked to the combination of Lovrencsics and Zubkov on the right and the individual trickery of Tokmac Nguen to create openings.

Ferencvaros thought they had regained the lead on the hour as Dvali headed home only to his goal ruled out for offside. However, less than a minute later Zubkov fired home after some fine wing play Tokmac Nguen to give Ferencvaros a 2-1 lead.

As with the first half, the goal seemed to have an adverse effect on Fradi who once again began to lose their hold on the game which turned scrappy with neither side able to keep possession for an extended period.

Ferencvaros’ mental and defensive frailties at European level rose to the surface time and again as Ludogorets presses for an equaliser and second away goal and came close on 83 minutes as substitute Siger was caught napping in midfield. Fortunately, Ludogorets were not able to capitalise.

The final minutes proved somewhat of a rearguard action for Fradi as they withstood constant pressure, a lot of which was self-inflicted. Eventually, they managed to hold out and will take a slender lead with them to Bulgaria for the 2nd leg.

In order to progress, Ferencvaros will need to sharpen up their play and cut out the defensive errors as Ludogorets will no doubt pose a greater threat at home. However, speaking after the game, manager Sergei Rebrov was confident his team had enough in the tank to see the tie through.


Rebrov in Good Spirits Ahead of Ludogorets Test

Ferencvaros manager Serhij Rebrov was in good spirits this
afternoon as he faced the press ahead of tomorrow’s opening Champions League
Qualifier against Bulgarian Champions Ludogorets at the Groupama Arena.

The former Tottenham striker spoke of his delight at the strength
in depth that he has at his disposal in the current squad and how returning
Haladas loanees Rui Pedro and Tamas Priskin have impressed him so far during
pre-season.

Maintaining a cautiously optimistic tone throughout this
afternoon’s pre-match press conference, Rebrov highlighted the importance of
the Ludogorets tie to the fans of Ferencvaros who have had to endure some
wretched results in Europe in recent seasons.

https://twitter.com/KevinMcCluskie1/status/1148610584579059714

The Fradi manager was at pains to stress that he had left no
stone unturned in his efforts to prepare his players tactically, physically,
and mentally for tomorrow night’s first leg encounter.

When probed on Ludogorets by a visiting Bulgarian journalist, Rebrov spoke highly of tomorrow’s opposition saying they are a high-quality team who have strengthened further over the summer.  Rebrov highlighted 34-year-old Brazilian born attacking midfielder Marcelinho as The Eagles dangerman.  The naturalised Bulgarian netted 8 times last season as he helped Ludogorets to an 8th title in a row.

Tomorrow’s encounter at the Groupama comes approximately 11
months after Ludogorets last visit to the Hungarian capital.  On that occasion Ludogorets lost 1-0 to MOL
Vidi; a similar result tomorrow would be a great outcome for Ferencvaros and
Hungarian football as a whole.


Egri Erbstein Tournament 2019: Corinthian Casuals, Champions of Europe

After months of meticulous planning, what started out as a
dream between Dominic Bliss and Bertalan Molnar, finally became a reality
shared with the world over the weekend of 15th and 16th of June.  That dream, of course, was the inaugural Egri
Erbstein Tournament, won in dramatic fashion by the world-renowned English
amateur side Corinthian-Casuals.

The background of the Egri Erbstein Tournament (ETT) is
fascinating.  Whilst researching for an
article on the historic Il Grande Torino side of the 1940s, English football
writer Dominic Bliss stumbled upon the hitherto untold story of Egri Erbstein,
the Hungarian coach of that fateful Torino team.

With interest in Erbstein piqued, Bliss continued to
research football’s forgotten pioneer long after completing his initial
article, and would not stop until his book Erbstein: The Triumph and Tragedy of
Football’s Forgotten Pioneer was published. 
From here, the snowball effect began to take place.

Inspired by the story of Erbstein and the history associated
with his now defunct first club, Budapesti Atletikai Klub (BAK), local
businessman Bertalan Molnar re-established BAK after an absence of over 70
years.

Egri Erbstein: Football's Forgotten Pioneer

A bond was created between Molnar and Bliss who, by chance,
is also a follower of English amateur side Corinthian-Casuals which was formed
after the merger of the original Corinthian and Casuals sides in 1939.  Prior to their merger, both Corinthians and
Casuals had toured extensively, taking the game to, amongst other nations,
Hungary. The legacy of the Corinthians visit was so positive that the
Corinthian Cup was established and became an important part of the Hungarian
football calendar; the 1907 edition even including BAK.

With stars aligned, Molnar and Bliss set about organising an
event that would recognise the legend of Egri Erbstein, bring
Corinthian-Casuals back to Hungary, and promote the increasingly popular
amateur game in both Hungary and England.

Dominic Bliss (left) & Bertalan Molnar (right) pictured with John Forrest, the men behind the Egri Erbstein Tournament

To complete the line up for the tournament BEAC and
Testvériség, two of Hungary’s most historic amateur sides were invited to
compete for the Egri Erbstein trophy. 
And, most incredibly of all, Viktor Kassai, referee of the 2011
Champions League Final, had offered to officiate Sunday’s final out of respect
for Erbstein.

SATURDAY 15TH:

Corinthian-Casual Vs. BAK

The tournament opener was the game everyone wanted to see;
Corinthians, the English visitors, against BAK, the romantic hosts, without
whom there would be no competition.

Corinthians, in the pink and blue of the Casuals, started
brightly but began to fade around the half-hour mark as the blazing midday sun
took its toll on the players.  As the
half wore on, BAK grew in confidence and carried a threat on the counter attack
however neither side was able to break the deadlock by the interval.

The stalemate did not last long into the second half as
Corinthians hit BAK with a quick-fire double within 15 minutes of the re-start,
before cruising to an eventual 3-0 victory over a spirited BAK side who ran
their more illustrious opponents close for long spells.

Testvériség Vs. BEAC

The second semi-final was a far more one-sided affair as
Testvériség of BLSZ 1 cantered to an 8-0 victory of BEAC of BLSZ 3.  Tesi controlled the game from start to finish
and, had it not been for some wayward finishing, could have ended the game in
double figures.

BEAC for their part showed courage and despite the gulf in
class rarely gave up the ghost and could even have nicked a goal at the
end.  In truth, however, the scoreline
did not flatter Tesi, who marched confidently into the final.

SUNDAY 16TH:

BAK Vs. BEAC – The Bronze Medal Match

After their mauling the previous day at the hands of
Testvériség, few amongst the 100+ strong crowd at Sunday’s Bronze medal match
would have given BEAC much hope against a BAK side who had proven themselves to
be a well-organised unit in their defeat at the hands of Corinthians the
previous day.

By the end of the first 45 minutes however, those in
attendance were left asking where this BEAC side had been the previous
day.  Looking comfortable in possession
and holding a strong shape defensively, BEAC had controlled the opening
exchanges and led 1-0 at the break thanks to the tournament’s first
spot-kick.  At this point, BAK, who had
been unable to create any meaningful openings were starring at the ominous
prospect of finishing last and goalless in their own competition.

At around the midway point in the second half the heavens
opened and torrential rain poured down on Szőnyi úti Stadion resulting in the
game being stopped for 20 minutes to let the storm pass.

BAK used this time to regroup and was reinvigorated as the
match restarted, taking the game to BEAC until they finally wore their valiant
opponents down and levelled the scores with a penalty of their own.

From that moment on there only ever looked like one winner
as BAK pressed and probed for a second goal. 
Just as the game seemed destined for penalties BAK midfielder Barnabas
Kantor smashed home a 20-yard curler, worthy of winning any game, to give BAK a
hard-fought victory and seal third place much to the delight of the onlooking
support; a large number of which had travelled out from England to make this
special occasion.

 Corinthian-Casuals Vs. Testvériség – The Final

In front of a crowd approaching 200 spectators including the
British Ambassador to Hungary, dignitaries from Torino, and members of the
Erbstein family – not to mention the original Corinthian Cup – the Casuals
faced off against Testvériség for the honour of lifting the inaugural Egri
Erbstein trophy.

The Trophy everyone wanted to get their hands on.

What was to follow was nothing short of a perfect advert for
the amateur game, the real beautiful game, as both sides battled to get their
hands on the trophy.

After a cagey opening period where both sides sought to feel
their way into the game, the match developed into an intriguing contest.  Both sides had their moments of being on top
without being able to capitalise, and both were also wary of the threat posed
by their opponents on the counter.

As with the first match of the tournament, the final match
was scoreless at half-time.

In symmetry with the opening game, Corinthians started the
second half much brighter than their opponents, however, this time they were
unable to get the early nerve settling breakthrough.

Time after time Corinthians peppered the Tesi goal but met
with defiant resistance on each occasion. 

With seconds left on the clock and penalties looming,
Corinthians made one last venture forward and, in true comic book style, Harry
Ottaway was on hand to knock home a low cross from the right with the very last
kick of the tournament.

Corinthian-Casuals 1 Testvériség 0.

That moment when you lift a Trophy on foreign soil. Priceless.

The final whistle was met with chants of
“Corinthian-Casuals, Champions of Europe” from the travelling support and the
smile of a proud father on the face of Dominic Bliss who oversaw the
organisation of the tournament from conception to perfect finale.

THE LEGACY

It is safe to say that the inaugural Egri Erbstein
Tournament was a phenomenal success and it is hoped that this can be used as a
springboard for future events.

The standard of football on show over the two days was of an
extremely high and competitive standard and the turnout in the stands was
equally impressive, demonstrating the genuine interest in the amateur game in
Hungary.

Having spoken to Dominic on the subject, there is a clear
intention to keep the Egri Erbstein Tournament in the calendar on an annual or
bi-annual basis, and avenues to grow and expand the competition will be
explored.

On a personal note, one of the great take-a-ways from the
Tournament for me was the friendliness and openness I experienced from everyone
I met over the two days.  New friends
have been made, new club allegiances created (Corinthian-Casuals, I’ll be
looking out for your scores on a Saturday evening from now on!), and a massive
amount of respect generated for all involved in organising this wonderful
weekend of football.

This is grassroots football. 
This is why we follow the game, and I cannot wait for next year’s
edition.

Hajra BAK. Vai Corinthians.


Women's Champions League Final: Budapest 2019

At approximately 6pm this coming Saturday at Ferencvaros’
Groupama Arena a little bit of history will be made.  As, for the first time, Budapest will play
host to the UEFA Women's Champions League final between Lyon and
Barcelona.  It will also be the first
time that UEFA has split the host city for the men’s and women’s finals, giving
both events a separate host and helping to create a unique identity for the
games.

Defending champions Lyon will go into Saturday’s showpiece
match as favourites.  The French side has
won title competition a record five times and has an apparently impervious grip
on the trophy having won it in each of the last three seasons.

Among their ranks, Lyon can boast the current Ballon d’Or Feminin holder Ada Hegerberg.  The young Norwegian who skilfully dodged Martin Solveig’s misjudged “do you know how to twerk?” comments at last year’s Ballon d’Or ceremony, has an eye for goal having notched over one-goal-per-game in all competitions this season. 

Ada Hegerberg: Ballon d'Or

Not only will Lyon be favourites on paper, but they will surely also be the crowd favourites as well thanks, in no small part, to the presence of midfield playmaker Dzsenifer Marozsan who, despite representing Germany at International level, was born in Budapest.  Indeed Marozsan’s father, Janos, was capped on four occasions by the Nemzeti Tizenegy in the early 1990s.  Marozsan will, therefore, be looking for the dream homecoming and the addition of a third Champions League winner’s medal to her personal haul.

Local girl in the photograph: Budapest born Marozsan will be looking for a win on ‘home’ soil

Despite the odds, and potentially the crowd, being against them, Barcelona Femeni is not a proposition that should be taken lightly.  Ranked 2nd in Europe behind Lyon, the side from Catalunya will feature in their first ever Champions League final on Saturday.  In their ranks is the extremely talented English forward Toni Duggan whose 5 goals thus far have helped propel Barcelona to the Budapest finale.

Can English goal machine Duggan fire Barca to an historic first Champions League title?

Interest in the women’s game on a Europe wide level is on the increase as record attendances for games this season in Spain, Italy, and the FA Cup final in England can testify.  It, therefore, comes as no surprise to find out that Saturday’s Cup final is a sell-out event, with 22,000 spectators set a treat of top football action.

To the victors, the spoils... and this beautiful trophy

The only question that remains is whether we will see Lyon’s
dominance continue, or a new name, that of Barcelona, written on the trophy.


Honved - Paksi: Honved in Cruise Control

Goals from Filip Holender (2) and one time Liverpool and Ross County striker David N’gog saw Honved ease to a comfortable 3-0 victory over visitors Paksi in Round 25 of the NB1 season.  The result keeps Honved in the chase for European qualification while leaving Paksi in mid-table and 6-points above the relegation zone.

A fairly healthy 1,400 souls braved a dreich and dreary Saturday afternoon, forgoing other warmer indoor pursuits, in order to swell the Nandor Hidegkuti in search of raw football and entertainment.  Thanks to Messrs Holender and N’gog, the majority of those in attendance left with smiles on their faces at the end result, if not the overall product on the pitch.

After a brief communication breakdown when purchasing my
match ticket – the lady at the ticket office tried to sell me the most
expensive ticket in the house, not realising that us Scots are really stingy
bastards – I found myself in with the Honved Ultras for the game.

IN WITH THE ULTRAS

Thankfully, like me, these guys like to stand to watch their football and, led by two microphone-wielding ‘Capo’s’ at the front of the stand, also like to indulge in a sing-song for the majority of the game.  Handy if the football’s not up to much.  However, it may also have been a blessing in disguise that I don’t know the words to all the songs.  Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

As is the norm in Hungary, the match was preceded by a rendition of the National Anthem, Himnusz .  However, as the game took place just one day after the National Day of Remembrance for the Heroes of the 1848 Revolution, the normally sombre anthem reverberated around the echoic chamber that is the Nandor Hidegkuti Stadion with renewed passion and gusto.  As an outsider to this tradition, I was moved by the sight of several lairy and heavy set chaps in front of me tearing up as the anthem reached its crescendo; a truly spine-tingling, hairs on the back of the neck moment.

Seconds later and the heavy set chaps were back to supping
on their pints and chanting “Csak a Kispest”; normal service resumed.

As expected, with neither side in particularly good form
going into the game, the opening exchanges were a tense affair, both sides struggling
to find a rhythm and looking ill at ease when in possession.

It’s an old cliché, but as the half wore on scoring the first goal took on increased significance as a means of calming one of the sides down.  And so it came in the 27th minute with virtually the first meaningful shot on goal from either side.

A long clearance by Honved’s Eke Uzoma was helped on by N’gog, picking out Holender’s run through the middle.  Once in possession, Holender was able to outpace the Paksi defence before slotting past the keeper. 1-0 Honved and a happy set of Ultras around me.

CRUISE CONTROL FOR
HONVED

As expected, Honved settled into the game after the opener
and, despite never really getting into top gear, began to take control of the
game and there was a sense of inevitability that a second goal was coming. 

Once again, it was that man Holender, who is growing into a
real leader on the pitch for Honved, who grabbed the goal.  The striker re-directing  David N’gog cross back across goal and out of reach
of Nagy, the Paksi keeper, to double the hosts advantage at the break. 

The second half picked up where the first ended with Honved in control and Paksi, to a man, not at the races.

If the second goal had an air of inevitability about it, then the third could have been signposted with neon lights as Paksi appeared to give up the ghost.  On this occasion, the Paksi defence was split apart far too easily allowing Mezghrani to hit the byline before cutting the ball back inside to N’gog to slide home and add his name to score sheet after two previous assists.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtkYBwg2VDk

With the game sewn up, Honved sat back giving up possession to Paksi who finally managed to get their own dangerman, Remili, involved in the game, started creating chances of their own, and were unlucky not to score on at least one occasion. By that time, however, the damage had been done and it was all a little too late for Paksi as Honved held out to record a vital win and secure a much needed 3 points.

ROUND 25 - ROUND-UP

Elsewhere in Round 25, league leaders Ferencvaros maintained their 8 point advantage at the top thanks to a 2-0 win over relegation threatened Haladas.  Second placed MOL Vidi beat Mezokovesd-Zsory 1-0 at home, and there were also victories for Puskas Akademia, Ujpest, and Debrecen.  Interestingly, all home sides won their Round 25 fixtures.

There’s no NB1 next week as the Nemzeti Tizenegy takes on Slovakia (Away) on Thursday before facing the might of Croatia at the Groupama on Sunday 24th March in Euro 2020 Qualifiers.  Hajra Magyarorszag.


NB1 Back with a Worldie Thanks to Remili

After a break of what seemed like forever, although in actual fact it was one of the shortest winter breaks in NB1 history, the Hungarian top division kicked back into action over the weekend. The standout game on the opening fixture list of the Spring season was undoubtedly the Budapest derby, and Saturday evening kick-off, between Ferencvaros and Budapest Honved at the Groupama Arena.

However, keen to scratch my itch for some live football and experience the highs that can only be achieved via the raw, coarseness of the Hungarian game, I plumped for the early kick-off between MTK and Paksi as my game of the day.

In truth, it was a bit of a last-minute decision as I realised I’d double booked myself for the evening and this was the only way I’d get my live football fix. But still, my addiction would be satisfied and I’d get to watch a new team play. Having never witness Paksi play in the flesh before I was intrigued to see how they would fare against an MTK side whom I consider to be, on their day, one of the more entertaining sides to watch in the league.

As I made my way down the Number 1 Tram line to the Hidegkuti Nandor Stadion I began to get the feeling that I wasn’t the only one looking forward to the return of the NB1 as the tram thronged with people, all surely going my way. Unfortunately not, as the majority of my fellow travellers got off two stops early at Puskas Ferenc Stadion; clearly, they’d missed the memo that the league was starting back early.

By the time I arrived at the stadium, half-an-hour before kick-off, I was the only one to get off the tram and cross the tracks to the stadium forecourt where I was more than slightly disappointed not to see a larger gathering of fans hovering around, soaking up the last of the pre-match atmosphere. I was now beginning to think maybe I was the only one who wanted to be here.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. I was soon joined by my friend Gabor, who I’d agreed to meet at the ground, and several of his work colleagues who had also come along to enjoy the thrills and spills of the NB1.

Tickets bought, we entered the ground and, as you do, went straight to the bar for a cold pint of Arany Aszok; perfect for warming the cockles on a freezing cold February afternoon, and off to our seats we went.  Even now, two years into life in Hungary, the novelty of taking a pint out to my seat to enjoy whilst watching the game has still yet to wear off.  Thanks to the riots following the 1980 Scottish Cup Final, and football fans being treated like second-class citizens, alcohol is still banned from Scottish football stadia.

Pint in hand, and one eye on Gedeon Goose the MTK mascot, I sat down to enjoy the game and immediately felt a pang of solidarity towards Paksi as they performed a pre-match huddle; being a Celtic fan, I’m a sucker for a huddle especially if the team doing it is wearing green.

From the get-go, both teams impressed with their willingness to try to keep the ball on the deck as much as possible and play a passing game. However, it was the away side who looked more confident in possession, putting together several decent moves only to see them fall apart at the final ball.

MTK huffed and puffed for most of the half without ever really finding their rhythm and veteran striker Sandor Torghelle cut an increasingly forlorn figure as the half wore on, despite his best efforts at getting involved in the game.

With half-time approaching Paks finally made one of their passing moves count, and boy was it worth the wait. After picking up on a second ball about 25 yards from goal, the Paks attack combined with a series of quick passes to waltz in behind the MTK defence. Artem Kychak, in the MTK goal, advanced to block the first shot but as the ball looped away towards the edge of the penalty area, he was left helpless as Mohammed Remili reacted quickest to score stunning overhead-kick. Somewhere in the world, Zlatan smiled and approved of this most outrageous of goals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hmI7z1r6mA

The second 45 followed a similar pattern to the first. Lots of industry, both teams trying to play football, but, ultimately, a lack of any end product resulted in the game becoming a war of attrition in the midfield.

Again, it was Paksi who showed most promise with Remili pulling the strings going forward. Indeed, it was from his beautiful near post corner delivery that Janos Szabo flicked home the visitors second of the game in the 76th minute. Three minutes later and it ought to have been game over as Janos Hahn blazed high and wide when clean through on goal following a defensive error from MTK.

Finally, with the game all but out of reach, MTK upped their tempo and began to threaten the Paks goal. With five minutes left to play the hosts finally gave their supporters something to cheer as Istvan Bognar’s crossed sailed over Gergely Nagy and into the net, ala Ronaldinho versus England all those years ago.

Alas, however, there was to be no further samba flair or carnival finish for MTK as Paks withstood a late onslaught to hold on to a deserved 2-1 away win. In the process, they impressed me with their organisation and determination to play a passing game.

As for Gedeon Goose, he barely flapped a wing the entire game and was a bit of let down. He, like the majority of the 1,300 strong crowds left disappointed, feeling that MTK could have offered so much more than they did.

Somehow, I expected more from MTK's wing man.

I left for the pub to watch Ireland take on England at the egg-chasing, sorry, rugby; I too would end my night disappointed. But I did get to see Henry Cavill, Superman himself, so you know, swings-and-round-a-bouts.

And for those interested in the Budapest Derby, it finished 1-0 to Ferencvaros, who remain 6 points clear at the summit.  But there were no worldies like Remili's strike.