Hungarian champions Ferencváros’ defeat to Qarabag in UEFA Champions League qualifying last month was seen as a catastrophe. The Budapest-based club defeated Dinamo Zagreb, Djurgårdens, Celtic, and Molde en route to the Champions League group stages back in 2020/21, and were hoping to repeat the feat this season. Those hopes were stopped in their tracks by Azerbaijan’s champions. However, Stanislav Cherchesov’s side are making amends in the Europa League instead. Online bookmakers such as 888Sport, which provides betting and free offers on European football, hadn’t tipped the Zöld Sasok to pull up any trees in the competition, but after two wins in as many matches, they currently sit atop of Group H.
After the group stage draw was made earlier this month, fans of Ferencváros could be forgiven for expecting a disappointing Europe campaign. They were drawn against two fellow champions, Red Star Belgrade and Turkish champions Trabzonspor. To make matters worse, they were also drawn against French giants AS Monaco. But things couldn’t have started any better.
The perfect start
On matchday one, the Hungarians were already on cloud nine. A first-half brace from Tokmac Nguen as well as Adam Traore’s strike gave the hosts a 3-1 lead at halftime over Trabzonspor. And despite the visitors pulling a goal back in the second half, it was Ferencváros who ran out worthy 3-2 winners. A bigger test was awaiting on the horizon though, with a trip to the French Riviera.
Matchday two brought about a trip to the principality of Monaco. Philippe Clement’s AS Monaco impressed in Ligue 1 last season. They held off a late charge from Rennes and Nice to secure third place in the French top flight and a spot in the Champions League qualifiers. They were stunned in qualifying for the second consecutive year, however, losing out 4-3 on aggregate to PSV Eindhoven.
They too made up for that disappointment in the Europa League though, winning 1-0 in the cauldron that is Red Star Belgrade’s Rajko Mitic Stadium. They were hoping to build on that at home to Ferencváros and entered the fixture as strong favorites. Despite dominating for long periods, however, the hosts couldn’t find the breakthrough. That opened the door for the visitors to steal all three points, and they did exactly that, with Hungarian midfielder Bálint Vécsei scoring the winner ten minutes from time.