Spirited visitors Malta were good value for their point

1-1 (49) Imre Boda (pen.)


0-1 (7) Carmel Busuttil

1990 World Cup Qualification
UEFA Group 6
Video: Highlights
Wed. 12 April 1989
Kick-off: –
Népstadion, Budapest
Att.: approx. 15,000
Ref.: Mr Arie Frost (ISR)
L 1: Beny Cohen (ISR)
L 2: Jacob Shainer (ISR)


3Northern Ireland5113373
4Rep of Ireland3021022

Bertalan Bicskei saw himself in charge of a third home match in just over a month. Having failed to overcome the Irish, nothing short of a victory was needed against Malta to keep them in contention for second place. Switzerland had been dismantled through a 3-0 win only eight days earlier. Spain were already looking uncatchable, but surely this was the match to get Hungarian football right back on track after a dismal winter which had been dominated by that sad bribery scandal.

There were a couple of omissions from the Republic of Ireland match, with neither József Gregor nor Ferenc Mészáros in the starting line-up. Even József Kiprich, who had been an ever-present up until now, had been ousted from the eleven that would kick off, with Imre Boda coming in for him. As for the visitors, they were without the suspended Michael Degiorgio, who had been red-carded in Spain. Heese brought full-back Cauchi into the side, and kicked off in what appeared to be a 5-3-2. It was expected that central defenders Joe Galea and Edwin Camilleri would continue their man-marking duties.

Referee was 40 year old Israelian Arie Frost. This was his first assignment at senior level outside of Israel, but he was a familiar face to several of the Maltese players, who had participated in a friendly away to Israel on December 2 ’87 (which finished 1-1), a match which Mr Frost had been in charge of.

Hungary (4-4-2)

1 Péter Disztl29Honvéd
2 István Kozmasub 74′24Újpest Dózsa
3 József Keller23Ferencváros
4 László Disztl26Honvéd
5 Ervin Kovács22Újpest Dózsa
6 Zoltán Bognár23Szombathely
7 Imre Boda27Olympiakos Volos
8 György Bognár27Toulon
9 János Sasssub h-t23Honvéd
10 Lajos Détári (c)25Olympiakos
11 Gyula Hajszán27Győri ETO

12 Tibor Balog23MTK Budapest
13 Imre Katzenbach24MTK Budapest
14 József Kiprichon 74′25Tatabánya
15 Pál Fischeron h-t23Ferencváros
16 Károly Gelei24Vác
Manager: Bertalan Bicskei

Malta (5-3-2)

1 David Cluett23Floriana
2 Edwin Camilleri26Hibernians
3 Alex Azzopardi 35′28Ħamrun Spartans
4 Joe Galea24Rabat Ajax
5 Denis Cauchi24Floriana
6 John Buttigieg25Brentford
7 Carmel Busuttil25Genk
8 Ray Vella (c)30Ħamrun Spartans
9 David Carabott20Hibernians
10 Charles Scerri24Hibernians
11 Martin Gregorysub h-t24Sliema Wanderers

12 Reginald Cini18Valletta
13 Silvio Vellaon h-t22Rabat Ajax
14 Hubert Suda19Sliema Wanderers
15 Jesmond Delia22Floriana
16 Joseph Falzon19Żurrieq
Manager: Horst Heese

Tactical line-ups

On paper, this was a potent Hungary line-up. In practice? Not so much. However, credit must go to Malta for denying the home team space, restricting them to only a few opportunities. Hungary set out with younger Disztl brother as a libero, yet with no clear man-marking instructions for vorstopper Z Bognár, who was able to participate in the build-up play almost at the same level as defensive midfielder E Kovács. However, it was further afield in the central areas that indicated a strong desire to win, as both their talented playmakers were included: Détári played almost as a second striker behind Boda early on, whilst G Bognár took up a slightly deeper position. Yet the Hungarians were struggling to create openings. Boda was the sole striker, with his front partner Hajszán mostly finding himself out wide left, something which in turn seemed to leave left sided midfielder Sass bewildered: what areas were he supposed to run into? Mezey may have wanted too much with his tactics. Something which backfired as the lowly ranked visitors shut up shop and kept it tight at the back, looking to catch Hungary on the break. They did so early on as Busuttil took advantage of some truly sloppy defensive play by the home side to run through the middle and score. Kozma often got forward from his full-back position. Keller likes to do the same on the other side, but his channel was already occupied. This saw a lack of rhythm and cohesion in the Hungarian attack, something which Malta took advantage of. They did not often trouble P Disztl, but they were rarely severely troubled at the back themselves, apart from when Z Bognár found himself right in front of Cluett after the goalkeeper had spilled Kozma’s effort. Big Cluett redeemed himself well to parry Bognár’s effort out for a corner kick.

After the break:

So Bicskei had taken Sass off at half time, replacing him with Fischer, as Hungary go 4-3-3: Fischer to the right, Boda in the middle, and with Hajszán still out wide left. This meant that Kovács would still sit deep in midfield, with G Bognár and Détári ahead of him, trying to thread passes through to the forwards. Keller and Kozma would continue to bomb forward from their respective full-back positions. Malta, on the other hand, had replaced Gregory with S Vella, who came into a more defensive midfield position, releasing R Vella to move slightly higher up in the pitch. Carabott had been placed wide left in midfield, leaving only Busuttil to run and chase up front, but with good support from the ever energetic Scerri on the right hand side of midfield.

Hungary were cramming a lot of their play into the centre, and the strong wind in their backs probably didn’t favour them, as some of their high passing from the back (yes! Why weren’t the two playmakers more involved?) went out for goalkicks. Malta were time and again given the opportunity to break, and even more so when Bicskei took off right back Kozma and replaced him with striker Kiprich, which meant that Z Bognár moved into a right back position, and Kovács into the heart of defence with L Disztl. Now only Détári and G Bognár were left in the Hungarian midfield, but still they could not unlock a disciplined Malta defence, in which E Camilleri throughout the game kept a watchful eye on Boda, with Galea in a less marking role for a change, until Kiprich entered the fray. However, Galea would often be seen rather close to Détári, who did like to approach the Maltese penalty area. Still with four strikers Hungary were unable to create openings, although they came close to scoring twice right at the death, through both G Bognár (shot deflected over) and Boda (hit the crossbar with his shot from inside the area). All in all a decent game, a lot of tactical indiscipline from the home side, and some stout defending from the Mediterranean visitors.

Match Report

First half:
Horst Heese sported his new hair cut, but could still be seen in the very same designer shades that he’d been carrying for most of the qualification tournament so far. The mood in the Maltese camp seemed good prior to kick-off. They would play with a relatively strong wind in their backs in the first half, and Olympiakos Volou forward Imre Boda would kick the game into action.

The opening sequences brought little goalmouth action, but the hosts set the tone in keeping the ball among themselves, letting the visitors do most of the running, unsurprisingly. However, there appeared to be a bit of complacency in the Hungarian play, and their defence would push high. This could potentially make them vulnerable, though no-one had foreseen what would happen right on the seven minute mark: big defender John Buttigieg won the ball inside his own half, and some delicious trickery beat off light challenges from no less than four Hungarian players. As he advanced towards the centre circle, he played in little forward Carmel Busuttil, who easily skipped past both Ervin Kovács and the despairing lunge of László Disztl. All of a sudden the KRC Genk forward found himself with only the goalie to beat, which he did with ease. Malta were a goal up with the game only a few minutes old. “Just what the doctor ordered”, Heese seemed to utter on the sidelines as he was sat on the bench with a big grin on his face.

In their previous outing in Spain, Malta had set about their tactics in man-marking the Spanish forward three. Here, only Edwin Camilleri was seen tight to his man throughout, with the lively Boda his task to keep calm. As Gyula Hajszán often pulled out towards the left hand side, he was left relatively undisturbed, where previously Joe Galea would have been seen tracking him down. However, Galea appeared to keep a watchful eye on Lajos Détári as soon as the Hungarian playmaker approached the Maltese penalty area, and in midfield it did appear as though the second Hungarian maestro, György Bognár, was being watched by Martin Gregory.

Despite fielding both Détári and G Bognar from the word ‘go’, there appeared to be a slight lack of creativity from the home side. Détári almost seemed as part of a three-pronged attack early on, with Boda running right where one had previously seen József Kiprich, whilst Hajszán was searching his prefered territory of wide left. Could this have been deliberate tactics from Bicskei? Or was Détári just too complacent to be bothered about what had been said in the days and hours prior to kick-off? Soon, though, as he realized that Galea was sticking fairly tight to him, Détári would retreat into more familiar territory of central midfield, from where he would distribute passes towards his comrades: soon right into the eager path of Boda, soon left towards Hajszán and János Sass, who would also be seeking out that particular area of the field. With Boda in more central positions than what Kiprich had been in Hungary’s previous matches, the home team’s right hand side was more or less up to right back István Kozma to deal with. And with József Keller a third left-sided player willing to go forward, there did appear to be a lack of sideways balance to whatever Hungary were trying to muster.

Malta defended well. John Buttigieg was his usual confident self, always helping goalkeeper David Cluett out on goal kicks, and often seen advancing with the ball at his feet. Cluett and Malta were let off the hook on 18 minutes, when a Kozma shot from the angle of the box was spilled, but he redeemed himself when he saved Zoltán Bognár’s follow-up from close range. At left back, Alex Azzopardi was a lot more confident now he did not have a man-marking assignment. And at right back, even Denis Cauchi, who had not played very well after coming on for Azzopardi in Seville, looked sound, despite Hungary’s repeated efforts to try and overload his side. The ever industrious three of right sided midfielder Charlie Scerri and the two forwards Carmel Busuttil and David Carabott made sure that the home team’s defenders were kept on their toes. Despite sitting deep, Malta were not afraid of trying to exploit their counter attacking opportunities, which were usually directed by their captain Ray Vella. Vella was once again decent on the ball, with his calmness spreading confidence across to his team mates.

The first half was a 45 minutes long siege on the Malta goal. Lázsló Disztl had been tasked with libero duties, but he was never geographically far behind his central defender colleague Zoltán Bognár. Both full-backs were pushing forward; in particular Kozma on the right. György Bognár was playing just ahead of defensive midfielder Ervin Kovács. Often Détári would come and collect the ball from any team mate and angle his passes long. It was all so easy to read for the Maltese defence. What opportunities arose hardly came the Hungarians’ way due to intricate attacking play. They were a cautious threat from set-pieces, but rarely troubled Cluett. Malta kept being resilient under their West German coach. To go in a goal ahead at half time was still more than the visitors had planned for. Left back Azzopardi had seen yellow for kicking the ball away after a free-kick was awared to the home side on 35 minutes. And Cluett had escaped severe embarassment when the referee had adjudged Imre Boda to have been unfair on the Maltese goalkeeper when he kicked the ball from mid air as Cluett was hoisting it up in the air for a long punt upfield. Boda collected and headed through an empty net, but the referee cancelled out the ‘goal’. 

Second half:
Both sides would make a half time substitution: Hungary took off left-sided midfielder János Sass and replaced him with Pál Fischer, who started the half wide on the right hand side. For Malta, central midfielder Martin Gregory had been replaced by Silvio Vella in a straight swap. With Gregory kind of attending to György Bognár in the first half, would that be Silvio Vella’s task in the second half?

The windy conditions did not improve during the half time break. In fact, they had seemed to deteriorate, and although Hungary were now playing with the wind in their back, they seemed unable to take advantage, as Malta obviously sat deep and were waiting for whatever the home team would throw at them. Too often Hungary’s lack of ideas would see them fall for the temptation to be playing long balls, which seemed futile given the conditions. Détári, whom you would think could unlock any defence with little, precise through balls, was the main culprit, and typically György Bognár would demonstrate in no uncertain terms how he wanted his colleagues to keep the ball along the ground. He had just been unable to reach a pass which came wind assisted in his direction but went out of play.

Whereas Malta had been 5-3-2 in the first half, they were now happy to try and soak up pressure with only Carmel Busuttil up top. Silvio Vella and Joe Galea, whoever was the nearest Maltese, would be attending to Détári, whereas David Carabott played out the second half wide left. Charles Scerri kept on running throughout on the opposite flank, and was instrumental in a number of counter attacks which Malta were able to string together. In fact, had they been just a little more precise in their passing play, they could so easily have won the game. They had five solid opportunities to catch Hungary on the break, with the home side having committed too many players forward. Also, the linesman would come to the Hungarians’ aid on a couple of occasions, probably wrong-doing the visitors. During another counter attack, left back Azzopardi had been cynically taken out by a despairing lunge from Kozma, who could count himself lucky to stay on the pitch. In fact, the referee didn’t even produce a booking for the foul which happened with Azzopardi clean through and just outside of the home team’s penalty area. Buttigieg wasted the resulting free-kick with a curled effort half a yard over Péter Disztl’s crossbar.

Although Hungary kept possession for probably 70 % of the second half, they did not manage to create a lot of openings, and, indeed, it was the visitors who looked the more dangerous. However, the boys in red shirts did get an early second half equalizer when Malta full-back Denis Cauchi (pronounced ‘Kauki’ if you must know) tripped Gyula Hajszán inside the box following a short corner from Lajos Détári. When Malta conceded a penalty in their 2-0 home defeat against Spain, captain Ray Vella had debated so heftily with the ref that he had earned himself a caution. He protested towards the Israelian referee as well, but with no card produced this time. Imre Boda, who would finish the season as the Greek league’s leading goalscorer, tucked away the penalty high to the right inside of David Cluett’s goal frame. The ‘keeper had dived the other way. Surely, this would just be an indication of what was to follow?

No. Hungary left it very late, in fact until injury time, before they produced an opportunity which could’ve won them the game. Boda struck a ferocious effort via the crossbar and over. By then it could have been too little, too late, had Malta taken any of the counter attacking opportunities which presented themselves in the latter 45. Charlie Scerri had thrown away his shin pads during half time and came out for the second half socks around ankles, just like we had seen in Seville, a clear sign that he was up for the battle. Scerri played his part, but so too did the rest of the Malta players, who after the final whistle ran across to West German Heese to celebrate with their manager what was a quite sensational away point. Heese, seen smoking on a couple of occasions during the second half, was all smiles, and had by then changed from his fashionable sun glasses into specs. As for the hosts, this would be a catastrophical result against the side that everyone had them down to take maximum points from. Bicskei had thrown caution to the wind when he took off (attacking) full-back Kozma for forward Kiprich, leaving themselves dreadfully exposed, going in desperate search for a winner, yet they could so easily have lost. Now they were left with two points from a possible four against Malta. Would Bicskei keep his post after this?


1 P Disztl 6.5
did not have a lot to do, as the visitors didn’t take their opportunities to counter as well as they could have. Perhaps he could have been more difficult to beat when Busuttil ran through to score? 
2 Kozma 6.8
got forward alright, but lacked in precision with his crossing. 
(14 Kiprich –
did not do an awful lot after coming on for the last 20 minutes.)
3 Keller 6.5
another one whose precision should have been better.
4 L Disztl 6.6
fairly comfortable night, rarely strayed forward, and wasn’t challenged as a defender.
5 Kovács 6.8
decent game, working well in his deep midfield role, and seeming comfortable on the ball. Moved back into a centre half position for the last 18-19 minutes. 
6 Z Bognár 6.7
should have scored. Defensively secure. Finished the game at right back.
7 Boda 6.8
was mostly kept in check by Camilleri, but came close to scoring the winner in injury time when he smashed a shot against the top of the crossbar.
8 G Bognár 6.6
this could have been his match, but ball was often played over the head of the central Hungarian midfield. Lacked his usual creativity. 
9 Sass 6.3
with Keller behind him and Hajszán ahead of him, Sass was mostly unsure as to what to do. Did not do a great deal, and was deservedly taken off at h-t. 
(15 Fischer 6.5
was supposed to give Hungary second half width, but came too much inside too often, making it easier for Malta to defend.)
10 Détári 6.8
a bit like what was the case with G Bognár, Détári also didn’t provide the necessary key to unlock the visitors’ defence. A couple of wasteful free-kicks from distance as well. 
11 Hajszán 6.8
never stops running, but not very efficient. 

1 Cluett 6.9
again showing a pair of safe hands in dealing with high balls into the area. No chance on Boda’s penalty. 
2 E Camilleri 7.0
stuck well to Boda throughout the match, and a couple of impressive blocks. 
3 Azzopardi 6.7
makes a good few clearances, good in positioning this time around. 
4 Galea 6.6
seemed a bit confused as he was left without man-marking assignments, but turned in a capable display at the heart of the Malta defence after all. 
5 Cauchi 6.8
did well against Hajszán, wisely concentrates on defensive duties.
6 Buttigieg 7.0
as always the cool head at the rear, never letting himself lose his calm. A great inspiration for his team mates. 
7 Busuttil 6.9
instrumental in most of what Malta muster going forward, took his goal very well, with more precision in the counter-attacking phase, he could have had a match-winning assist. 
8 R Vella 6.8
like Buttigieg he is so important in how he manages to hold on to the ball, run past an opponent and inspire his colleagues. His distribution in the second half could have been better as Malta looked to exploit their counter-attacking opportunities. 
9 Carabott 6.6
industrious as always, likes to take on defenders, but also does a decent job in tracking back in the second half when he is put wide left in midfield. 
10 Scerri 7.0
possibly man of the match, probably unlucky to be caught offside on a couple of occasions during the second half when he so easily could have run through to be one on one with P Disztl. Has such an engine!
11 Gregory 6.3 
often the anonymous man in midfield, Gregory does a lot of work off the ball. Replaced at h-t, possibly because of an injury, but Heese might have wanted an even more cautious approach with S Vella on for him.
(13 S Vella 6.6
tries his best to stabilize midfield, but there’s a lot of high balls from the home side. Competent in the air.)