Depressed though I am that Middlesbrough legend George Friend is leaving for the perennial mediocrity of Birmingham, I have a match to watch. We’re four games into a new campaign and before today it’d been anything but smooth sailing for big-spending Vasas. Two utterly turgid draws dented the fans’ (and my) pre-season optimism, before an unconvincing victory against Csákvár finally saw the Ironworkers get one in the win column.
Part of the reason for this initial optimism came from the quite ridiculous attack Vasas are lining up with this year. Alongside the swaggering Adam Balajti and newly-fit Botond Birtalan (both of whom have won the NBii golden boot in recent years), Vasas retain the services of Róbert Feczesin – who was top scoring in NBi when Vasas signed him last January – whilst also adding end-of-season top-scorer András Radó to their ranks. That’s a lot of goals (and – one can only imagine – a lot of cash) for a second division squad. Throw Újpest centre back Róbert Litauszki into that line up and you’ve got a team that should be steamrollering the Békéscsabas and Kazincbarcikais of the league, not playing out the nervy 1-1 draws seen in their first two matches.
Vasas needed a statement win to get their season going, and it came today against newly-promoted Szentlőrinc. Szentlőrinc is a town of around 7000 people which, given the stadium-spunking footballing crapshoot that is Orban’s Hungary, could mean they either play in a brand-new, state-of-the-art 5000-seater arena or on a vegetable patch. Thankfully one look at the place confirms it’s the latter and grassroots football lives to fight another day.
The first 35 minutes are pretty agricultural stuff; Vasas again struggle to play with any fluency against a home side unwilling to give them time on the ball. It’s a quick-thinking freekick from Hinora that breaks the deadlock. His one-two and neat pull-back leave Lóránd Szatmári free to stroke home from the edge of the box with his second fine finish in two games.
After that, Szentlőrinc look lost and nervy. A speculative long ball from the edge of the Vasas box finds Balajti in miles of space just before half-time. The non-existent offside trap duly sprung, Balajti has time to take the ball down and whip one, Henry-like, around the oncoming keeper. 2-0.
It should be three before the break. A *very* harsh penalty results from a Birtalan tumble (to say the refs are going easy on Vasas this year would be an understatement), and gives the struggling striker a change to kick-start his campaign. Unfortunately his decently-struck spotkick is matched by keeper Slakta, who dives low to his right. Birtalan is back from injury and still hasn’t hit the heights of recent years in these first few games. Luckily with Feczesin injured he’ll probably get a few more chances to get up to speed.
Half-time: Szentlőrinc 0-2 Vasas
After a presumed half-time rollocking Szentlőrinc come out strong, going close from a few set-pieces and putting the pressure back on the visitors. It’s not until Balajti’s second – swept in calmly from a corner in the 65th minute – that the game is finally put to bed.
The home side strike back briefly through Kondor, who hits a truly beautiful, swerving 25 yarder to make it 3-1, but a few minutes later another harsh spotkick award gives Balajti a chance to complete his hat-trick. Balajti‘s penalties are a sight to behold, the swarthy striker ambles up in the manner of an old man climbing a hill, before trickling the ball agonisingly into the opposite corner of the diving keeper. It rarely fails, and has the twin advantages of making Balajti look cool as fuck and the opposition goalie look like and utter berk. 4-1.
Vasas lose defender Litauszki to a second yellow late in the game (he’ll be missed next week in tough Haladas match), but sub Vernes makes sure the away fans go back to Budapest with smiles on their faces with a neat bit of footwork in the 90th minute; dancing past one defender before wrong-footing the keeper to make it 5-1. For the first time this season Vasas can go home feeling they’ve been somewhere near their best.
Szentlőrinc 1-5 Vasas (Szatmári, Balajti 3, Vernes)
A fine win takes Vasas (for now) up to 6th. Haladas will be a test next Sunday before the big one against Debrecen the week after.
Thanks for your service George! Good luck at Brum (come back soon). *sob*