…with a whimper (Vasas FC vs. Zalaegerszegi)

It’s a beautiful day in Ujpest for the final game of the 2018/19 campaign, and it’s also time to say a not-so-fond farewell to the Szusza Ferenc – the ground that Vasas have been borrowing this year – as the team prepares to move back to Angyalföld and the newly-rebuilt Illovszky Rudolf Stadium.

Today Vasas play… *checks notes* – sigh – Zalaegerszegi Torna Egylet. I swear I should be doing this in Iceland where the team names have two letters. ZTE (as I will now refer to them) are the team who once embarrassed Man Utd in the Champions League qualifiers, beating them 1-0 in the first leg before getting stuffed 5-0 in the return. They are also the NBii league champions and are in fine voice. Flares are flared, drums are drummed, and the poor Vasas stadium announcer has to constantly remind the ZTE fans to refrain from chanting the Hungarian equivalent of “Fuck Angyalföld” (which, miraculously they do – imagine the reaction if this happened in England).

The match has a very end-of-season feel. The pace is slow and players have plenty of time on the ball. Nobody really has anything to play for today: Vasas can’t go up, ZTE are clear at the top of the table, and it’s easy to see why. They knock the ball around fluently and are soon 1-0 up courtesy of a soft goal by Hudak.

After that the afternoon rapidly descends into a nightmare.

It starts when Vasas keeper Balazs Bese comes haring off his line to intercept an attack, but instead intercepts a ZTE attacker’s head with a Harald Schumacher-esque hip block. It’s a deserved red card and a disappointing end to a mixed season for the young stopper. He’ll hopefully be back better, but for today there’s only 28 minutes gone and it’s not looking good. Sub-keeper Bősz takes an age to get on the pitch but when he does he pulls off some decent saves. He’s not really had much chance to play this year but seems steady and has similarly good distribution skills as Bese.

Somehow Vasas actually start to settle after this disruption. They have several great attempts through Kovacs and Balajti but can’t find the net. And when you’re down to ten men and miss your chances, you know what’s coming. ZTE break against a defence that’s now a man light and make it 2-0 (Vojnovic) just before half-time to effectively kill the game.

The second half sees ZTE knock in 3 more (Novak, Bobal and Bedi with the goals) to finish 5-0, but it’s a weird 5-0. Vasas have a spree of clear-cut chances, Birtalan misses an open goal and Balajti sees 3 or 4 opportunities go begging. It’s unusual for these two to be wasteful with 45 goals between them this season, but today nothing is going right for them. ZTE just keep catching them on the break and punishing them with some excellent finishing.

To rub salt in the wounds, the Vasas faithful then have to sit through ZTE’s league trophy presentation. Perhaps there’ll be another, happier one next year.

It’s not the way the home team should have finished the season, under Károly Szanyó they’ve improved massively and will be amongst the favourites to go up in 2020 if they can hold on to Balajti and Birtalan. But I get the feeling they’ll be happy to see the end of Ujpest.

Speaking of Botond Birtalan, I was kindly allowed to come to the new stadium to interview him this week. Once I’ve transcribed it I’ll put it up. He’s a lovely fella and very forthcoming. We had a good old chat about his trial at Sheff Utd, a wonder goal that made him an internet sensation and the future of the club.

For Vasas it’s the end of a pretty dark chapter of their history – life at Ujpest has seen them relegated and their squad and finances depleted. Hopefully now it’s time to rebuild back on their home turf. Despite today’s result I’m excited to see what next season will bring.


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