Much-depleted Hungary are denied win by last gasp equalizer

1-1 (46) Carmel Busuttil
2-2 (90) Carmel Busuttil


0-1 (7) István Vincze
1-2 (57) József Kiprich (pen.)

1990 World Cup Qualification
UEFA, Group 6
Video: Goals
Sun. 11 December 1988
Kick-off: –
Ta’Qali Stadium, Valletta
Att.: 9,964
Ref.: Giorgos Koukoulakis (GRE)
L 1: Meletios Voutsaras (GRE)
L 2: Konstantinos Dimitriadis (GRE)


This was Malta’s second match in the qualification, while half a year had already passed since their early opener in Belfast. There were various changes in the Malta team. Most importantly, influential deep lying playmaker Ray Vella returned to the starting eleven. Vella was the mastermind in the Maltese team, and would be vital in a game where they most likely would see more of the ball than they had in Belfast. Perhaps surprising to see Silvio Camilleri start at right back, where one would expect Joe Brincat. Experienced Michael Degiorgio is a player whose name hopefuls in Ta’ Qali would look for, but in this match Martin Gregory took place in midfield next to Scerri and Vella (Degiorgio possibly injured?). Martin Scicluna had been paired with Galea in central defence in the last three friendlies, but eventually Edwin Camilleri maintained his place in the team.

Mezey’s team looked very different from the one defeating Northern Ireland in October. The reason for this seems to be an ongoing investigation in Hungary at the time. This meant that Mezey had to do without several of his key players in Malta. Most, if not all, the changes can be explained by this. The “new” players were all capped, but some of them, it has to be said, were normally only on the fringes of the national team squad (like Csuhay¹ and Csucsánszky). Luckily, star man Kiprich was available. Mezey could also use Kozma at right back, a position which he had held in the team under previous manager Balint. Of the new players, at least Keller, E. Kovács and Vincze had been pushing for a start even against Northern Ireland.

Referee: Giorgos Koukoulakis from Greece. He had previously been to Malta for their 1-1 draw with Switzerland during the 1988 European Championships qualifying in November ’87.  

¹ József Csuhay, the Honvéd central defender, was about to feature in his 11th international, having made his debut in a 1-0 home win against Denmark in the qualifiers for the 1984 European championships, although he had been picked in the squad for Spain ’82 (without featuring then). However, he might have been best remembered for his goal for Videoton in the return leg of the UEFA Cup semifinal in the 1984/85 season: the Hungarians had won the home leg 3-1 against Yugoslav team Željezničar from Sarajevo. 2-0 down three minutes from time at the feared Grbavica stadium, Videoton’s (then) right back was played through and finished with aplomb one on one with Željezničar’s goalkeeper Dragan Škrba. He was hardly known for his goalscoring qualities, Csuhay, but his goal took Videoton through to the UEFA Cup final, where they would eventually lose 3-1 on aggregate to Real Madrid. 

Malta (3-5-2)

1 David Cluett 32′23Floriana
2 Edwin Camillerisub 55′25Hibernians
3 Alex Azzopardi27Ħamrun Spartans
4 Joe Galea23Rabat Ajax
5 Silvio Camillerisub 72′20Hibernians
6 John Buttigieg25Brentford
7 Carmel Busuttil24Genk
8 Ray Vella (c)29Ħamrun Spartans
9 David Carabott20Hibernians
10 Charles Scerri24Hibernians
11 Martin Gregory23Sliema Wanderers

12 Reginald Cini19Valletta
13 Michael Degiorgio26Ħamrun Spartans
14 Michael Woods26Hibernians
15 Silvio Vellaon 72′21Rabat Ajax
16 Nicky Salibaon 55′22Valletta
Manager: Horst Heese

Hungary (4-4-2)

1 Péter Disztl (c)28Honvéd
2 István Kozma24Újpest Dózsa
3 László Disztl26Honvéd
4 József Keller26Ferencváros
5 Rezső Kékesi30MTK Budapest
6 József Csuhay31Honvéd
7 József Kiprichsub 88′25Tatabánya
8 Ervin Kovács21Újpest Dózsa
9 Zoltán Csucsánszky23Videoton
10 István Vinczesub 72′21Lecce
11 Tibor Balog22MTK Budapest

12 Attila Pintéron 88′22Ferencváros
13 Csaba Bordás21Győri ETO
14 Sándor Kincses27Ferencváros
15 Pál Fischeron 72′23Ferencváros
18 Zsolt Petry22Videoton
Manager: György Mezey

Tactical line-up

Note how, when defending, Malta’s Carabott would drop back into a left-sided midfield position, and it was during a quick counter, when the red-shirted #9 had been helping out in a more defensive capacity, that he was allowed time and space to advance and shoot goalwards from all of 35 yards early in the first half, just after the opening Hungary goal. Hungary had probably not had time to adjust according to Carabott’s defensive responsibilities, and so no-one would come out to try and repel him. His opportunistic strike rammed Péter Disztl’s crossbar, although to be fair to the ‘keeper there had looked to be no imminent danger as the ball left Carabott’s right boot. It dipped towards the end, perhaps influenced by the wind, before rebounding off the bar. The opportunity seemed to spark Malta into action, as they had been somewhat respectful of their opponents until then.

The Hungarian central midfield has a watchdog in Ervin Kovács and a waiter in Zoltán Csucsánszky. In theory it sounds an ideal combination, but they were lacking in cohesion and showed in practice that this was more the result of some hasty decision-making by manager Mezey rather than a cunning plan that they had been working on for quite some time. Somehow, balance did not seem right in the Hungarian midfield, where Kékesi and Vincze were not overly bothered with defensive graft. This left Kovács, in particular, exposed when Malta came forward through the centre, which they often did through Busuttil, (Ray) Vella and Buttigieg.

During the first half, Heese had tried to gain width on the right hand side by shifting Carabott over from the left. Behind him, Silvio Camilleri was not the most adventurous right-back ever, so until Carabott came across to this side it had been up to Scerri to try and attack the Hungarian left-back, something which never happened frequently, as Scerri was preoccupied with his tasks in-field. Carabott stretched Keller on a few occasions, and they continued to have him running down this side even after the break. Malta’s attacking left-hand side suffered as a result, but they simply did not have enough quality in wide areas to do something about it. And they apparently saw Keller as an easier prey than right-back Kozma. In the latter parts of the half, as measures became slightly more desperate in their quest for a rare point, Carabott was moved up front in company of Busuttil.

Match Report

First half:
The opening 45 minutes were rather evenly contested, though the visitors came in 1-0 to the good. They probably just edged this half on background of opportunities created. The period’s only goal came courtesy of the hero from the 1-0 win against Northern Ireland two months earlier: Lecce’s István Vincze half-volleyed home a deep cross from Rezső Kékesi. A much-depleted Hungary were never too comfortable, and the hosts were far from overawed by their opponents, creating a couple of goalscoring opportunities themselves, most notably with striker David Carabott hitting Péter Disztl’s bar with an effort from 35 yards which caught the Hungarian goalkeeper by surprise. With skipper Ray Vella back in the side, they were much more composed in the centre of the pitch than had been the case in Belfast. West German manager Horst Heese kept faith in a five man strong backline, with (English third tier) Brentford’s recent signing John Buttigieg continuing his sweeping duties from Windsor Park. In fact, the only change at the back came on the right hand side, where the younger of the Camilleri brothers, Silvio, would step in for Joe Brincat. S Camilleri had a modest first half, though he did venture across the halfway line on a couple of occasions.
Hungary seemed to lack creativity from the centre of the pitch, where two fairly young and inexperienced players at international level were given a lot of responsibility: Ervin Kovács (21) and Zoltán Csucsánszky (23) at times struggled to keep the lively Charles Scerri in tow, and when in possession, they did not muster a whole lot themselves. However, Videoton’s Csucsánszky was probably instrumental in most of what Hungary had to offer, especially as he was the designated set-piece man. He could, and possibly should, have scored when István Kozma, in an unfamiliar right back role, got to the byline and cut his pass back 45 degrees, only for the midfielder to finish low and not particularly impressive along the ground and straight into the goalkeeper’s arms. Perhaps the very same goalkeeper should consider himself slightly fortunate, however, to still be on the pitch by then, as he on 33 minutes came out of his area to try and deal with a through ball, only resulting in him scything down Csucsánszky on the edge of the penalty area’s D. TV commentators were even comparing it to ‘Toni’ Schumacher’s attack on Frenchman Battiston back in the ’82 World Cup, though it was not quite of similar proportions. The Greek referee only produced a yellow card, and the resulting free-kick was wasted by Csucsánszky.
Ray Vella was nicknamed Il-Mundu, and the Maltese skipper had a certain presence about him despite his fairly average physique. He took the deep midfield role, orchestrating whatever Malta were trying to do going forward, relieving some of the responsibility off John Buttigieg, who had been the sole force of inspiration behind the two strikers in Northern Ireland (though acting as a sweeper, or perhaps ‘libero’ is a more fitting description for the man who had captained Malta in Vella’s absence). There was also the industry of Charles Scerri, who did have a fine first 45 minutes. The Hungarian back four were rarely threatened, though. Malta would need to carve out some proper openings in the latter 45 in order to get something out of the game.

Second half:
The two Hungarian forwards kicked off the second half, and they would play it backwards, the ball eventually finding its way to left-sided defender Keller, whose stray pass got picked up by skipper Vella, who had seen Busuttil making a run in behind the visitors’ defence. The pass was timed to perfection: no offside, no Hungarian centre back managed to cut off the space left behind by Keller’s lack of discipline. One on one with the shady looking and bearded figure of Péter Disztl, the Maltese forward rounded the Honvéd goalie and saw the stadium erupt as the ball crossed the goalline for the equalizer. Big fault on József Keller, and perhaps László Disztl could have been more observant too, in making a few steps to the left in order to close Busuttil down.

1-1 has fuelled Malta into life, and buoyed by the vociferous crowd their extra energy levels seem to unease Hungary, where really only goalkeeper Disztl and striker Kiprich are experienced at international level, perhaps accompanied by Vincze. However, they manage to compose themselves, and when Malta defender Edwin Camilleri has to go off after a collision with his own ‘keeper following a Hungarian corner from the right, Tatabánya forward József Kiprich will soon be given the responsibility to regain the visitors’ lead: Malta substitute Nicky Saliba, who has come on for the injured Camilleri only a minute earlier, makes a poorly timed challenge on the diminutive Kékesi inside his own box, and the ref can do nothing but award Hungary a penalty. Kiprich dispatches with ease. Saliba, having made his international bow in a friendly draw with Cyprus only three weeks earlier, could hardly have made a worse impression after coming on.

What follows contains little in terms of quality. Hungary are happy to sit back and let Malta take over the initiative, and they appear to have a lot of potential on the break, in particular down the right hand side, where both Kékesi and Kiprich are equipped with pace. The balls forward from the back and from midfield lack precision, though, and after their 2-1 goal, Hungary hardly manage to trouble Cluett. After replacing the more experienced Camilleri brother, Saliba settles into the very same man-marking role, but would his unfortunate involvement that lead to the Magyars’ penalty ultimately prove to be Malta’s undoing? Only a few minutes after falling behind, Gregory has a decent opportunity to bring the Maltese level when he takes on a pass inside the penalty area from Busuttil. Péter Disztl makes a fine stop from Gregory’s shot.

With 17 minutes remaining, both sides make a substitution: Malta take off right-sided defender Silvio Camilleri and replace him with Silvio Vella, who immediately settles into the sweeper role previously occupied by Buttigieg, who is moved forward into a more advanced position: midfield appears to be Buttigieg’s new address. Heese makes no secret of the fact that he is chasing a second equalizer. Scerri will take over duties on the right hand side, though he is far from as defensively focused as the debutant whose place he had succeeded. Carabott, who during the second half has been seen along the right hand touchline, will be operating further forward and more in-field. The Hungarians’ change comes with Ferencváros forward Pál Fischer making his only second international when coming on to replace Vincze. Balogh will take over Vincze’s place on the left hand side of midfield, with Fischer going up top to accompany Kiprich.

Despite seeing a lot of possession, there appears to be little Malta can do to unlock the Hungarian defence. Busuttil has a tame effort easily saved by Disztl. Then, at the other end, Fischer tries to get past his marker Galea using his hand, but the referee sees his rather weak Maradona impression and awards a free-kick to the home side. However, contrary to some reports, there is no yellow card produced for the visitors’ substitute. Three minutes from time, in order to preserve their lead, Mezey brings on defender Attila Pintér for Kiprich, though he slots into a defensive midfield position more or less alongside Kovács. And yet again a substitute will be instrumental in a situation leading to a goal, when Pintér clumsily and unnecessarily brings down Carabott out by the right touchline. Silvio Vella fires the resultant free-kick into the area, and well into injury time, a minute and 22 seconds in to be precise, Il-Bużu makes Hungary suffer when he applies the finishing touch under Disztl’s despairing dive. Once again Ta’ Qali explodes into life: Malta appear to have taken a big point off the group’s second seed. Shortly after kick-off, the Greek ref blows his whistle for the final time. The inexperienced Hungary side will have been hugely disappointed to have lost a point in injury time. 2-2 is perhaps a fair reflection of events after all.

Despite fielding a much weakened side, Hungary were thought to return home with two points. However, Malta, with captain Ray Vella back in the side, had other ideas, and though falling behind as early as the seventh minute, they rid themselves of whatever respect they had for facing a former football great. They play with a lot of heart and passion, and the relatively young Hungarian side is finding it hard to maintain any rhythm, also partly because of the bumpy surface. When Malta equalize only a few seconds into the final period, they realize they have a decent opportunity to get something from the game. Unfortunately, substitute Saliba, having been on the pitch less than a minute, clumsily gives away a penalty when he brings down winger Kékesi. Kiprich despatches comfortably, and Malta need to chase another equalizer. This could see Hungary perhaps sit back and hit them on the counter, but it doesn’t happen: The weakened Hungarian side is unable to take advantage of any openings that might have presented themselves, and Malta’s aggression will eventually bring them a sensational second equalizer. After that, there is no time for the visitors to go in search of a third goal. Ta’ Qali goes mental. Malta have won a cracking point, and it is well deserved. Hungary will have been disappointed to concede so late, but they got just what they deserved from a rather negative performance.


1 Cluett 6.7
lucky to remain on the pitch after taking out Csucsánszky just outside the penalty area when through one on one. Not at fault for either goal. Reliable, and makes a couple of good stops. 
2 E Camilleri 6.7
has some interesting tussles with the quicker Kiprich, but Camilleri manages to stick well to him, not giving him much space to work from.
(16 Saliba 6.2
he has the most unfortunate introduction, when he concedes a penalty less than a minute after coming on, but he picks himself up and does well against Kiprich after that.)
3 Azzopardi 6.5
another unspectactular performance by the trusted left-back.
4 Galea 6.6
keeps Balog in tow.
5 S Camilleri 6.3
indifferent performance, a few odd bounces do not contribute into making it his afternoon.
(15 S Vella –
slots into Buttigieg’s sweeper role after coming on, with his predecessor moving further up field. Sends in the free-kick which leads to the second equalizer.)
6 Buttigieg 6.8
the big defender marshalls his troops well enough, and moves into a midfield role as Malta go chasing a second equalizer. 
7 Busuttil 7.4
he might not have succeeded in everything he tried to do, but with two goals he will still be a big hero to the locals, and rightly so. Uses his low body gravity to twist and turn away from opponents. 
8 R Vella 7.1
the man with the Maltese midfield authority was back and it showed in the team’s performance. He orchestrated most of what they did going forward from his deep midfield role. 
9 Carabott 6.8
operating in various roles during the game, is full of running, and does well. 
10 Scerri 6.9
adds bite to the engine room.
11 Gregory 6.7
shows strength when needed. Should have scored when one on one with P Disztl in the second half. 

1 P Disztl 6.7
rounded by Busuttil for the first, whilst the second goes under him. Not to blame, but a top ‘keeper would have stopped one of the two. 
2 Kozma 6.7
was seen joining the attack on a couple of occasions during the first half, whilst focusing on defensive duties after the break. The first half suited him better. 
3 L Disztl 6.6
does not move in quickly enough to close down Busuttil for the first, and he did seem a bit off the pace at times. 
4 Keller 6.6
renowned for being good going forward, but had been told to stay put for most of the match. 
5 Kékesi 6.9
two assists, but that was about it: He crossed for Vincze for 1-0, then was taken down by sub Saliba for the penalty from which Kiprich netted. 
6 Csuhay 6.7
safety first, a few booted clearances. 
7 Kiprich 6.9
kept worrying the home defence with his powerful and intelligent running in the opening half, but apart from netting the penalty, he did not seem like a goal threat all night. 
(12 Pintér –
oh, dear. Brought on with a few minutes to go in order to sure up. Then he goes and concedes a completely unnecessary foul out by the right hand touchline. Misses his interception right before Busuttil equalizes. Very forgetable few minutes.)
8 Kovács 6.6
patrols the rear part of midfield, took a while to settle, but was outshone by his midfield colleague. 
9 Csucsánszky 7.0
set-piece taker and the creative force from central midfield. Very unfortunate not to have made it 2-0 when he was played through one on one with Cluett, who was only yellow-carded for the tackle that saw the Hungarian midfielder cynically brought down.  
10 Vincze 6.8
great technique for the opening goal, drifted more out than in of the game. 
(15 Fischer –
came on to try and hold the ball up, but found it tough against the uncompromising Galea.)
11 Balog 6.2
very tame, often hid out near the left hand touchline, leaving Vincze to assist Kiprich in the box.