Ferencváros will compete in the group stages of the UEFA Europa League for the first time since the competition was rebranded eleven years ago after the Budapest club defeated FK Suduva of Lithuania 4-2 in the second leg of their qualifying play-off tie in Hungary’s capital city on Thursday night.
Serhiy Rebrov’s team had fallen a goal behind as early as the tenth minute but Roland Varga’s penalty restored parity and Franck Boli scored his first goal for the club in putting ’Fradi’ ahead in first-half added time. Suduva equalised to put themselves in pole position to progress but Tokmac Nguen’s maiden strike for Ferencváros wrested back control of the tie and substitute Mikalai Sihnevich eased any lingering nerves with another successful penalty in second-half added time.
A goalless draw last week had meant that any kind of win would be enough for the current Hungarian league champions to progress to their first group-stage appearance in any European competition since 2004/05 in the UEFA Cup, the previous name for the competition now known as the Europa League.
As if Ferencváros needed any more encouragement to achieve this aim, they were cheered on by a near-capacity, 18,567 crowd in the Groupama Aréna, a large section of which behind one goal succeeded in producing a tremendously raucous, almost-inspirational atmosphere with their many green, white and black-striped flags and constant chanting, backed by drums and a loudspeaker.
It proved to be an open, exciting match from the outset. Suduva right-back Samir Kerla was to prove a threat at set-pieces all evening but his first effort, a spectacular, seventh-minute overhead kick from the back of the Fradi penalty area following a right-wing corner, sailed a good distance wide of its target.
Suduva looked sharp and just three minutes later they punished some lacksadasical defending by scoring the opening goal of the match, Marcel Heister and Lasha Dvali guilty of overplaying the ball in the Ferencváros defence to the extent that Ovidius Verbickas was able to latch on a wayward pass 20 metres from goal, stride into the penalty in the centre-right channel and crash his shot past home-team goalkeeper Dénes Dibusz via the outstretched calf of Dvali’s central-defensive partner Miha Blazic.
That was by no means the away team’s sole foray forward early on either, Josip Tadic’s 21st-minute header from corner perhaps fortunately blocked by Dvali, Dibusz gratefully diving on the loose ball.
Serhiy Rebrov’s men were back in the game in the 35th minute though, after a somewhat bizarre set of circumstances in which Boli latched onto Tokmac’s deflected pass and was brought down by a sliding Ivan Kardum, who’d ill-advisedly surged from his goal. A split-second later though, the covering Suduva defender bundled the ball into an empty net, meaning referee Marco Guida’s penalty award was more a potential punishment than a benefit to Fradi. Nevertheless, winger Roland Varga held his nerve to slot the spotkick low down the middle of the goal and in for the equaliser.
Varga could even have doubled his tally and put Fradi ahead in the tie within two minutes, only for his right-footed effort from the left side of the penalty area to curl too close to Kardum rather than into the vacant right side of the goal.
Oleksandr Zubkov then pulled the ball back to Ihor Haratin for a very presentable sight of goal on the edge of Suduva’s penalty area, only for the Ukrainian’s unfortunate miskick sent the ball pirouetteing harmlessly wide of theleft post.
Fradi were not to be denied their half-time lead though, an added-time cross from the right by Zubkov delightfully diverted off the far, left post and low into the visitors’ net by the right boot of the impressive, quicksilver forward Franck Boli.
Suduva’s Kerla had the first chance of the second half but headed wide of the far left post from a right-wing corner in the 49th minute. Zubkov nearly struck a decisive blow for the ’Green Eagles’ just after the hour mark when his excellent left-footed curler struck the angle of the far-left post and crossbar, but instead it was Suduva who regained the initiative in the tie, lone striker Mihret Topcagic tucking in Jovan Cadenovic’s’s cross from the right at the near post in the 64th minute.
Their destiny didn’t appear rosy for long though, Nguen Tokmac putting Fradi back in front three minutes later with a pinpoint, low, right-footed drive into the bottom-left corner of the Suduva net from 25 metres.
The Lithuanian side were still very much in the tie and, knowing that they needed one goal to go through, woulld have rued Paulius Golubickas’s close-range header over the crossbar from fellow subsititute Eligius Jankauskas’ right-wing cross with 18 minutes left.
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Almost immediately, Tokmac was found clean-through by a long pass from the left-back position, but his heavy touch gave keeper Kardum the chance to block before a waiting Zubkov inexplicably headed over the goal instead of using the ample time he had to control the ball and shoot at the barely-guarded goal a matter of metres away.
In the next five minutes there followed great opportunities for substitute Isael and for Boli – both close to goal with only the goalkeeper to beat, but such chances were spurned as Fradi failed to put the game to bed.
Amidst almost unbearable tension, another Ferencváros replacement, Mikalai Sihnevich scooped an ambitious shot just over from 14 metres in added time, before Ivan Hladík’s foul on the indefatigable Zubkov on the left side of Suduva’s box gave Sihnevich the chance to finally put the outcome of the tie, which he duly did with another penalty down the middle of the goal.
The group-stage draw for the UEFA Europa League will be made in Nyon at 13:00 CET today.
Ferencváros 4-2 FK Süduva (HT: 2-1)
FTC: Dibusz – Lovrencsics, Blazic, Dvali, Heister – Sigér (Ihnatenko, 71.), Haratin – Varga (Isael, 67.), Tokmac, Zubkov – Boli (Sihnevich, 80.)
Suduva: Kardum – Svrljuga, Kerla, Jankauskas, Hladík, Zivanovic – Verbickas (Jankauskas, 71.), Cadjenovic, Matulevicius (Vezevicius, 89.) – Topcagic, Tadic (Goluvickas, 46.)
Yellow: Heister (4.), Sigér (33.), Kardum (35.), Kerla (42.)
Goal: Verbickas (11.), Topcagic (64.), illetve Varga (36. – penalty), Boli (45+1.), Tokmac (66.), Sihnevich (90+4, penalty)
Source: mlsz, fradi.hu, MTI