Old Faithful (Vasas FC vs. Haladás)

I’m feeling a little bit of a traitor to grassroots football today, because I much prefer the comforts of the new Rudolf Illovszky Stadium on a week-to-week basis than the crumbling wind tunnels of Budafok or Soroksár (or even bigger stadia like Újpest for that matter). The new ground is becoming home for Vasas, but to cement that feeling you need the gritty, blood and guts comebacks that linger in the memory. Vasas hadn’t really had one of those until now.

Haladás (whose name means “progress” in Hungarian) come from the customarily unpronounceable city of Szombathely in the Little Hungarian Plain. It’s the oldest city in the country apparently, and – on a literary note – the father of Leopold Bloom from Joyce’s Ulysses was from there.

Vasas, starting today without Balajti or Birtalan, come out of the blocks full of energy but without much end product. Diminutive striker Zoltán Szedlár runs himself sick but just can’t find the chances in an unremarkable half, and although Milán Kovács continues to display his future captaincy chops in midfield (I may have – under the influence of a beer or two – referred to him as the young Hungarian Gerrard), there’s not much else to get excited about.

After a rather limp half-time chicken schnitzel sandwich (the closest thing to a parmo this erstwhile Boro fan could find) and a few Sopronis, the second half gets underway. Thankfully it’s a night and day difference from the first.

As a beautiful pink sunset surrounds District XIII, Haladás take a shock lead through Márió Németh. It’s a swerving 25-yarder which curls away from reserve keeper Levente Bősz‘s fingertips to make it 1-0 to the away team.

This prompts manager Szanyó into quick action. Botond Birtalan and Ádám Balajti are brought on and make an immediate impact: Balajti by missing a harshly-given handball penalty (it’s my fault – I was bigging him up to my fellow Vasasians), and Birtalan by scoring a header so towering that it exceeds Budapest’s 96-metre building height limit. It’s 1-1 and Vasas are on a roll.

Sándor Torghelle is a name you might know. The former Hungarian international played for Crystal Palace in the early 2000s and is now seeing out his last few years at Vasas. He’s a popular player here and his introduction sparks a wave of anticipation amongst the home faithful. This expectation is nearly paid off immediately as he volleys a drifted ball with instinctual grace towards the Haladás net. Fair play to keeper Dániel Rózsa for a smart save.

It doesn’t take long for 1-1 to become 2-1 – in fact it comes from the resulting corner. I’ve given Vasas’s leaky defence more than a few digs in the past but Csaba Lakatos played well today. He capped his performance off with a fine downward header in the 83rd minute and the stadium breathes out.

Torghelle still has time to get his name on the scoresheet. Another harsh penalty (I’ve watched it back and I have no idea why it was given – no wonder you can’t bet on NBii games…), and the evergreen striker lamps it past the a stunned keeper to make it 3-1. As much as I love Balajti’s tactical, “give him the eyes” pens, you can’t beat a big balding forward smashing the ball unnecessarily hard from 12 yards.

It wouldn’t be Vasas without a glimmer of hope given to the opposition, so the genuinely gigantic sub Csanád Novák makes it 3-2 a minute later, but that’s all. Three much need points in the bag, and onto a run of games that will make or break Vasas’s season.

Vasas 3-2 Haladás (Birtalan, Lakatos, Torghelle. Attendance 2000)

Although MTK steam onwards, a few losses for the other top teams has revealed a chink of light for the chasing pack. Vasas are generally good coming from below. Autumn is the time to prove that if they want to leave themselves a chance of promotion going into 2020.

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