Hungary overcame a spirited Cyprus in the Ferenc Szusza Stadion in Budapest tonight thanks to a maiden full international goal from 22-year-old midfielder András Schäfer, but the margin could have been greater had Nemanja Nikolic not seen his late, thunderous, late penalty superbly saved by visiting goalkeeper Neofytos Mihael.
Marco Rossi will surely be pleased by a number of encouraging individual displays, not least from Schäfer, who provided numerous other highlights in addition to his first Hungary goal, including the tricky run which earned his side a late penalty. Debutant János Hahn led the line well in the first half and Kevin Varga alway seemed intent on providing a cutting edge down the left wing.
Before the match, Rossi had decided to give first-choice goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi the captain’s armband behind a back three of Attila Szalai, Ádám Lang and Endre Botka. Varga on the left and Gergő Lovrencsics provided width as wing-backs with Dávid Sigér, László Kleinheisler and Schäfer lining up as a central midfield three. Filip Holender and the Hungarian top league’s most prolific goalscorer this season, Hahn – who came to the match from a Budapest hospital where his first child Sára – formed a striking duo upfront.
A cautious first half-hour saw neither side threaten the opposing goal but the deadlock was broken in the 36th minute when Varga’s dashing run to the left byline preceded a cutback which Holender at the near post missed but which Scháfer drove high into the centre of the Cyprus net past hapless goalkeeper Mihael.
Six minutes later, Hahn’s pinpoint pass down the left touchline initiated a counter-attack, which resulted in the same player’s shot being blocked and Lovrencics’ eventual follow-up flying off-target. Hungary therefore took a single-goal advantage into the half-time break, but they were perhaps a touch fortunate to hold onto it in the early part of the second period, having made several half-time substitutions.
Firstly, Ioannis Pittas’ fierce shot from a tight angle on the right was beaten away well by substitute goalkeeper Dénes Dibusz in the 54th minute, and just three minutes later a scrambling Dibusz had to be alert to gather C11’s dipping, 25-metre half-volley at the second attempt.
A second raft of substitutions – including an international debut for defender Bendegúz Bolla – provided the hosts with new impetus on the hour mark, Varga screwing a right-footed drive a couple of metres high and wide of the far-right post in the 69th minute. With five minutes left, Schäfer did superby well to draw a foul from a Cypriot defender inside the penalty area, but substitute and stand-in captain Nemanja Nikolic saw his fierce spotkick beaten out by Mihael diving to his left.
That meant Hungary had to be content with a single-goal victory against a Cyprus team which has started its World Cup- qualifying campaign in impressive fashion. This still extends their unbeaten run to ten matches ahead ofTuesday’s final UEFA Euro 2020 warm-up match against Republic of Ireland in the same stadium.