Hungary U21s ease to confident victory against Cyprus
An admirable team performance handed Michael Boris' Hungary Under-21 team a 4-0 home victory against Cyprus in the New Nándor Hidegkuti stadium in Budapest on Thursday night. Bence Bíró and Attila Szalai put the hosts two goals to the good by half-time and a further two were added after the break courtesy of an own goal and a rasping drive from substitute Donát Zsótér as Hungary extended their unbeaten run in this qualification campaign to five matches.
Boris' charges, lining up in a 3-5-2 formation, were on the front foot immediately and although Ioannis Pittas had an early sight of goal, the Cyprus striker's shot from distance flew high and wide. From then on, it was nearly all Hungary, great interplay from Dániel Sallói and Bence Bíró providing a lay-off for Dániel Gazdag but he shot low and just wide of the left post to serve Cyprus notice of the hosts' attacking intent.
This warning was not heeded though as Hungary's enthusiastic forwards pounced upon any loose passes and used any pockets of space to move the ball slickly into more advantageous positions, a strategy they executed to devastating effect as early as the eighth minute when dynamic, one-touch passing saw the ball arrive from the left channel to Dominik Szoboszlai. The former Hungary Under-17 captain wasted no time in recycling it to Gazdag at such a pace that it was perfectly ready to be sent on through low to striker Bence Bíro advancing deep into the right side of the penalty who tucked it back across Cyprus goalkeeper Andreas Paraskevas and under his despairing right arm into the left side of the goal.
Three minutes later, Szoboszlai nearly doubled the home teams' lead only for his crashing drive to be beaten away well by Paraskevas to his right, but that two-goal cushion was very much on the horizon and in the 23rd minute it became a reality, Gazdag's cute pass freeing Sallói down the right channel of the penalty area and his subsequent deep, lofted cross standing up perfectly for Attila Szalai to head into the left side of the net ten metres from goal.
There was no doubt which team had bossed the first half an hour and this dominance was nearly crowned by a third goal, Bíró getting his head to another right-wing cross but seeing it deflected into Paraskevas' grateful arms.
If Hungary had stamped their authority on the initial 30 minutes, it was not something they could take for granted thereafter and they were given ample reason to remain alert in the 35th minute when Costas Soteriou took it upon himself to dribble through half the Hungary defence and toe-poke an effort past home goalkeeper Patrik Demjén but, unfortunately for the Cypriot midfielder, just past the far right post too.
A few minutes later, Pittas headed Matija Spoljaric's left-wing cross straight at Demjén as the visitors came back into the game a bit more, but it was only a brief glimmer of hope before half-time. Normal service was duly resumed at the beginning of the second period as Hungary piled on the pressure and reaped their reward when Leonadis Kyriakou diverted a Sallói cross from the right past his own keeper in the 49th minute.
Szalai twice nearly added to Hungary's advantage in the space of two minutes, firstly hooking an ambitious, 56th minute half-volley just over the right corner of crossbar and post before more wastefully scooping the ball well over the bar after the ball had been cut back to him from the left byline. More chances for Boris' men came and went, Gazdag seeing his thunderbolt palmed out by the goalkeeper who then covered himself in glory with a superb one-handed save after Balogh had firmly headed Szalai's left-wing cross low to the keeper's left.
Cyprus' sole chance of the second half came in the 6th minute when substitute Andreas Fragkou's deflected 25m free-kick made Demjén back-pedal sharply and leap at full stretch to turn the ball over the crossbar. Hungary were soon back on the attack though and in the 71st minute Salloi broke free down the left wing and advanced into the penalty area before forcing a finger-tip save from Paraskevas to his right, but Máté Katona couldn't force the
rebound inside the right post from a very tight angle.
Four minutes later, two substitutes combined to notch Hungary's fourth goal, Palermo striker Norbert Balogh surging inside from the left wing and slipping the ball to Dónát Zsótér who took a touch or two to allow himself enough space just outside the penalty area to thrash a low, right-footed drive into the left side of the goal.
Hungary wound down the minutes as they had spent the entire match; on the attack. Centre-back Bence Lenzsér was the last to draw another excellent save from Paraskevas when his header from Sallói's inswinging free-kick from the right was flicked over the crossbar - a tremendous reaction save from a goalkeeper who was surely Cyprus's man of the match.
That accolade would be more difficult to select for Hungary who played impressively all over the pitch in extending their unbeaten run since the start of this qualification campaign to five matches. They are still in second place but now lie only one point behind Belgium ahead of their visit to face the group leaders in Leuven next Monday.
Hungary 4-0 Cyprus (HT: 2-0)
Hungary (surnames first): Demjén Patrik - Lenzsér Bence, Kecskés Ákos, Tóth Bence - Katona Máté, Vida Máté, Szoboszlai Dominik (Zsótér Donát, 63.), Gazdag Dániel (Rácz Barnabás, 80.), Szalai Attila - Sallói Dániel, Bíró Bence (Balogh Norbert, 55.)
Goalscorers: Bíró 8., Szalai 23., Kyriakou 48. (OG), Zsótér 75.