I got to see the inside of a Hungarian public hospital last week; a hernia surgery meaning I missed the last few Vasas matches. Whilst the aesthetic was a wee bit Cold War and the welcome not as warm as the dear old NHS, I am now the proud owner of three small scars and a fixed stomach – thanks to the staff at Péterfy Kórház for that. And so I managed to get myself up and about in time to see Vasas play Balmazujvaras, a team determined to take top spot from Nyiregyhaza in the “teams whose names I can’t pronounce” stakes.
It’s Vasas’s 108th birthday this week – and the ultras are celebrating with flares, flags and choreography, but it must be a little bittersweet given the team’s current predicament. As a Middlesbrough fan I know what it’s like to support a club that bestrode Europe like a colossus* but now lurk in the second tier. Anniversaries throw this nostalgia into sharp relief, by definition forcing fans to look back at brighter times. Vasas are clearly not the club they were, and a return to the top flight does not look imminent.
(*reached one UEFA Cup final)
But onwards to today – Balmazujvaras are struggling near the foot of the table, but you wouldn’t think it given the way they start the match. Their confident midfielder Balint Domokos is given just enough space to run from halfway and spanks a 25-yarder past Bese’s anguished dive to make it 0-1 after just five minutes.
Six minutes later and the lead is doubled: Vasas give the ball away cheaply in midfield, a cut-back and a Chuckle Brothers-style mix up at the back sees Bence Tóth fall onto the ball and maternally clasp it to his bosom and it’s a penalty for handball. There’s no mistake from Romanian midfielder Carlo Erdei, who sends Bese the wrong way. There was a slight possibility the ball was out for a goal kick before the infraction, but it was lax defending and Vasas have got to take their lumps. 0-2.
And before you know it, it’s half time. And knowing Vasas that’s the game over. There’s weakness all over the pitch, Balajti isn’t getting any service and giraffe-like midfielder Milán Kovács can’t seem to sort his comically oversized legs out. It seems for all intents that the visitors are going to blow out the candles on Vasas’s birthday cake.
Which is why the second half is such a surprise. Vasas come out full of piss and vinegar and take the game by the throat. Everything that went wrong in the first half is going right now. Kovács evolves from awkward giraffe to graceful gazelle, Bese’s previously lumbering and misplaced distribution is suddenly quick and effective.
Vasas break on the right, and the ball comes loping past the back post, eluding everyone. Everyone, except that is, for the magnificent bastard that is Adam Balajti, who takes one touch and caresses the ball past the keeper in the 54th minute. 1-2 and the fightback is on! Balajti has been utterly ridiculous this season, and this is his 18th goal of it. Who knows where Vasas would be without his contributions.
Balajti feels it now and starts to bring out all his favourite moves, including the “death by 1000 cut-insides”. Vasas are growing into the game and Balmazujvaras start to look more like a team idling in 16th place in the league, rather than the behemoths that first-half Vasas made them out to be.
More good work on the right by Kovács, he cuts back and lofts a ball to the far post where Ádám Hajdú can’t decide whether to shoot or head, opting instead to fold himself in half and bundle the ball home with sheer enthusiasm. It’s 2-2 with 65 minutes gone and a home win now seems tangible, inevitable even.
And before you know it, it’s in the bag for the Angyalfölders, a corner on the right and for the third time tonight man on the back post is unmarked.
Hajdú watches it with the eagle eyes of a Yorkshireman checking his change in a London pub and drills a low volley through the crowd to send Vasas fans into ecstacy. It’s 3-2, it’s 3 points, it’s over. What a comeback!
Vasas 3-2 Balmazujvaras Sport (Balajti, Hajdu 2. Attendance 780)
What a difference 45 minutes makes. A superb turnaround keeps Vasas theoretically in the title race (especially with second place Gyirmót Győr getting a 1-5 home hiding from Budaörs).
Notes on other teams I follow:
Middlesbrough are doing their best to throw away a play-off place, losing 3-0 at a resurgent Aston Villa.
In Bahrain, Al Shabab are still just about holding on above the relegation zone, a 3-1 win at Budaiya helping greatly.
The J2 League is underway again, and Tokyo Verdy have lost 3 of their first four. They sit in 18th.