A late deflected winner from substitute Valentin Stocker broke Hungarian hearts in the Groupama Aréna last night after Ádám Szalai had confounded his critics to equalise twice in the second half against Switzerland in their FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier last night.
Haris Seferović had put the visitors ahead in the 51st minute via rebound but Szalai struck back two minutes later via another rebound. Ricardo Rodríguez’s fine volley re-established the Swiss advantage but again Szalai levelled matters with a diving header under huge pressure from a defender, only for Stocker to have the final word.
Hungary head coach Bernd Storck opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation to start with, Péter Gulácsi taking his place in goal behind the preferred back-four of Tamás Kádár, Ádám Lang, Richárd Guzmics and Attila Fiola and two central midfielders in Ádám Nagy and Zoltán Gera. Further forward, László Kleinheisler had Zoltán Stieber and Balázs Dzsudzsák either side of him with Ádám Szalai starting on his own upfront.
It was an attritional opening first 25 minutes with only Dzsudzsák going close with a raking left-foot shot from distance, but the game sparked into life in the 27th minute when Switzerland came extremely close to taking the lead, Gulácsi reacting superbly to save Fabien Schärás header before Zoltán Stieber twice cleared off the line from Blerim Dzemaili’s shot and Guzmics’ rebounding header. Two minutes before half-time the visitors went close again but Dzemaili glanced his header wide from Shaqiri’s left-wing cross.
The second half was a totally different affair to the more cautious, goal-bereft nature of the first period. Firstly, Stieber nearly put Hungary ahead when he swivelled to meet a half-cleared corner but his volley was straight at Swiss keeper Yann Sommer. Switzerland then seized the initiative when Shaqiri pounced on Ádám Lang’s miscontrol and broke through on goal, Gulácsi blocking his shot well but helpless to prevent Seferović’s follow-up entering an empty net. Hungary hit back immediately though when Szalai deflected Kleinheisler’s low shot onto the far right post and converted the rebound which had bounced behind Sommer and almost along the goal line.
Parity had been restored but still the game was hard to predict as both sides matched each other. A moment of magic seemed necessary to separate the teams and so it came to pass when Behrami’s clever, chipped reverse-pass took Fiola out of the game for a moment and set up Ricardo Rodríguez perfectly for a fizzing volley which bounced into the very far left corner of Gulácsi’s net. Once again though Hungary struck back almost straightaway and it was Szalai again in the right place at the right time, bravely forcing in Stieber’s superb first-time flicked cross from the left after he’d stretched to meet Dzsudzsák’s astute, lofted through-pass.
Suddenly there was a new-found zest in Hungary’s play and they looked for all the world as if they would go on to take the lead when Stieber raced down the left wing and crossed for the arriving Krisztián Németh, but an apparent shove on him by Schär was not penalised by the referee and play continued. Sadly there would be a winning goal but it would be against Bernd Storck’s team, Valentin Stocker seeing his shot deflected past Gulácsi by the unfortunate Attila Fiola just a minute after coming on as Switzerland’s final substitute. Even then, shots from Kádár and Fiola nearly earned Hungary a remarkable third equaliser but their efforts from inside the penalty area were blocked by a scrambling Swiss defence.
This unlucky defeat leaves Hungary in fifth place in group B on one point from their first two matches of the European qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Their next match is away in Riga against Latvia this coming Monday, 10th October.
Hungary 2-3 Switzerland: Coach reaction
Bernd Storck, Hungary head coach:
“We played a high-level match, both teams performed well and the match was intense until the end. Unfortunately we made many individual errors and in the end we lost the match because of them. It is annoying that we took no points from a performance such as this. We finished the match at a high intensity so it’s a shame we couldn’t start like this. We must learn from our mistakes. I’m sorry we couldn’t gain any points but I am proud of my players because against a top team we succeeded in matching them – we achieved what we did in this summer’s Euros where we took the fight to a very strong Switzerland team. We thank the supporters for believing in us until the end because they were our 12th man on the pitch and I sorry we couldn’t provide them with a better result.”
Vladimir Petkovic, Switzerland head coach:
“The Hungarians played to a high standard, they were in the game having being able to level the match and I’m very happy that we were able to be successful in gaining the three points. In the first half we were better than the opponent but in the second period we found ourselves under pressure and Hungary were able to equalise twice. In the end we showed our character because we always believed we could win and after we took the lead for the third time we won the match”.