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.