Three Hungarian teams – Cup-winner Ferencváros, League runner-up Videoton and third-placed Vasas – have started their 2017/2018 season Europa League campaign on Thursday evening. While Ferencváros and Videoton both enjoyed comfortable 2-0 home victories in the 1st qualifying round 1st legs over Latvian side Jelgava and Malta’s Balzan respectively, Vasas somehow relinquished a 3-1 advantage with two minutes of normal time remaining away at Beitar Jerusalem to lose 4-3.
Those fans at the Groupama Aréna of Budapest last evening saw a vintage performance from Ferencváros right-winger Roland Varga, who opened the scoring from an Amadou cross in the 11th minute before hitting the woodwork either side of half-time and then grabbing a second with a first-time finish from substitute Lukács Böle’s cutback in the 69th minute. Ferencváros dominated possession and had most of the chances against Latvian side FK Jelgava so a 2-0 win must be the minimum they’d have been happy with.
Videoton had longer to wait before they cracked open the defence of Maltese club Balzan FC at their temporary home of the Pancho Aréna in Felcsút, Marko Scepovic diverting Krisztián Géresi’s pass into the bottom left corner of the net with his right foot in the 79th minute before Danko Lazovic secured the win by converting a rebound in the 94th minute after the Balzan goalkeeper had saved well from Hadzic’s header from a Nego cross.
There could easily have been a clean sweep of wins for Hungarian clubs tonight but Vasas blotted the copybook with an astounding loss away in Israel, albeit with the consolation of three away goals and just a one-goal deficit ahead of next week’s home leg. Georginho put hosts Beitar ahead in the 19th minute but Michael Oenning’s team turned the match on its head with a brace from Evgen Pavlov, the first a stooping header and the second a crashing first-time shot from a cross which went in off the bar, to lead 2-1 at the break.
Tamás Kulcsár then extended that lead seven minutes into the second half when he broke clear and finished confidently, the 3-1 lead lasting until the 88th minute when veteran Yossi Benayoun equalised having made his debut for the club from the bench. Idan Vered then restored parity in the 91st minute and Erik Sabo notched an unlikely winner in the 92nd minute to ensure Vasas travel home with a loss from their first competitive European match since the 2005 Intertoto Cup, but still with some hope of progress to the next round in next Thursday’s second leg, the day Ferencváros and Videoton will also play their return fixtures.
Europa League 1st qualifying round 1st legs:
Ferencváros 2-0 FK Jelgava (LTV) (1-0)
Goalscorers: FTC: Varga R. (11., 69.)
Beitar Jerusalem (ISR) 4-3 Vasas (1-2)
Goalscorers: BEI: Georginho (19.), Benayoun (88.), Vered (91.), Sabo (93.) VAS: Pavlov (36., 43.), Kulcsár (53.)
Videoton FC-Balzan FC (MLT) 2-0 (0-0)
Goalscorers: VID: Scepovic (79.), Lazovic (94.)
via mlsz.hu; cover photo: Tamás Kovács – MTI