Northern Ireland unlucky to lose

1-2 (90) Norman Whiteside


0-1 (13) Kálmán Kovács
0-2 (45) György Bognár

1990 World Cup Qualification
UEFA Group 6
Video: Goals
Wed. 6 September 1989
Kick-off: 8.00pm
Windsor Park, Belfast
Att.: 8,000
Ref.: Mr Erik Fredriksson (SWE)
L 1: Christer Drottz (SWE)
L 2: Bo Karlsson (SWE)


Subdued atmosphere at Windsor Park, where the locals realized that the home side would stand very little chance of going through to their third consecutive World Cup tournament. Despite a few initial positives, they had found it hard to assert themselves in the group, particularly finding it difficult to score goals. A win against Hungary was adamant, and they would need help from Malta in order to qualify.

2Rep. of Ireland6321528
4N. Ireland6213575

Bingham’s men had performed professionally in Valletta, and the man in charge chose to stick to this side more or less. The team was however boosted by the return of the talismanic Norman Whiteside, who had lost the entire qualification with injury. He went straight into the side in a midfield role, replacing L. Sanchez and taking over the captain’s armband from injured Mal Donaghy. No doubt an improvement, although N. Ireland were weakened in defence by the absence of Donaghy (their best performer so far), where Anton Rogan had to step in. This meant that Bingham had to to without his two favoured central defenders, as McClelland still was out injured as well. Kevin Wilson had done decently in the various roles given to him so far by Bingham, but here Kingsley Black (enjoying good days for Nottm. Forest) was preferred. Bingham again paired Clarke and Quinn, who had started the qualifiers in tandem, before being split. But they had been regrouped against Malta with some success. This meant that they had two men up-front to look for with the long ball tactics. Whiteside would push forward from his midfield role, with McCreery to cover him. D. Wilson had now settled as a wide midfielder, in a role where he would have licence to cut inside and help the two central midfielders.

The selection of the Hungarian XI had been quite inconsistent so far in the qualification, but here Bicskei chose a formation and selection rather similar to the one that drew with Malta. Bicksei notably kept the same midfield four. Perhaps a surprise since Hungary’s performance in that match was far from satisfying?  Pál Fischer and Kálmán Kovács had since last time secured transfers to European clubs of high reputation, Ajax and Auxerre respectively, and they were both thrown into the side as strikers. This meant that star man Kiprich surprisingly still was helt on the bench, but it still felt like an exciting selection from Bicskei. Sallai also returned to the team after the infamous investigation, meaning that Kozma missed his first match of the qualifiers (and yet this had to be counted as an improvement). It was a Hungarian tactics much like we have seen previously under Bicskei. Détári would be the main playmaker, with Gy. Bognár making the runs from behind. There is not a lot of width in the team, with a big question being what Sass (normally a full back) could make of his left midfield position. The striker combination of Fischer and K. Kovács was a new one, with Fischer a powerful striker and Kovács an advanced forward with blistering pace. On the bench was Kiprich, who was celebrating his 26th birthday today.

With both N. Ireland and Hungary needing a win, there was a chance that this after all could be an interesting match. A win for either team would after all ensure some excitement in the last games of this group, although noone at this point seriously could have believed that the qualifying berths would be taken by anyone else than Spain and Rep. of Ireland. With loss for Hungary, Spain would qualify for Italia’90 that night, and TVE2 were for that reason broadcasting the match.

Northern Ireland (4-4-2)

1 Tommy Wright25Newcastle
2 Gary Fleming22Manchester City
3 Nigel Worthington27Sheffield Wednesday
4 Anton Rogan23Celtic
5 Alan McDonald25QPR
6 David McCreery31Hearts
7 Danny Wilson29Luton
8 Jimmy Quinnsub 65′29Bradford
9 Colin Clarke26QPR
10 Norman Whiteside (c) 56′24Everton
11 Kingsley Black21Luton
12 Allen McKnight25West Ham
13 Steve Morrow19Arsenal
14 Michael O’Neillon 65′20Dundee United
15 Robbie Dennison26Wolverhampton
16 Kevin Wilson28Chelsea
Manager: Billy Bingham

Hungary (4-4-2)

1 Péter Disztl29Honvéd
2 Sándor Sallai29Honvéd
3 József Keller23Ferencváros
4 László Disztl27Club Brugge
5 Ervin Kovács22Újpest Dózsa
6 Zsolt Limperger 26′20Ferencváros
7 György Bognársub 85′27Toulon
8 János Sass23Honvéd
9 Pál Fischersub 90′23Ajax
10 Lajos Détári (c)26Olympiakos
11 Kálmán Kovács23Auxerre
12 Zoltán Bognáron 90′24Szombathely
13 József Duró23Vasas
14 Gyula Hajszánon 85′27Győri ETO
15 József Kiprich26Feyenoord
16 István Gulyás29Békéscsaba
Manager: Bertalan Bicskei

Tactical line-ups

Match Report

First half
The reverse fixture had been a completely one-sided game, with N. Ireland hardly seeing the ball, being happy to sit back and absorb the Hungarian attacks. This time they would have to get more involved, and they were clearly the dominant side in the opening minutes of this match. This evening one could clarly appreciate the difference between the two teams, as the home side relied on high tempo, direct play, while the guests enjoyed patient build-up play.

And it was the home side that clearly gained the upper hand, as it initially looked like Northern Ireland had found their shape again after a series of less inspiring matches. Quinn and Clarke were again in tandem as strikers and made the Ulstermen’s long ball tactics again come to its right, as the Hungarian defenders seemed unable to stop the pair. After only a minute of play Northern Ireland created their first big chance, with Quinn laying the ball off to Clarke, whose shot P. Disztl managed to parry. The midfield also did well to stand high up the pitch to re-win possession and clearly showing a tenacity superior to that of their opposition. The new midfield combination looked balanced and exciting: McCreery would sweep up balls, Whiteside push forward, Black offer width while D. Wilson, now moved to the right side of midfield, used his new licence to roam around the park, creating some havoc in the Hungarian defence. A series of free-kicks in decent positions were also given to the Ulstermen, as the Hungarians persistently came too late into the challenges. This was a promising start for Northern Ireland.

Hungary’s opening goal in the 13th minute came against the run of play, and as a result of anything but their slow, probing build-up strategy. Péter Disztl launched a high ball up field that Anton Rogan crucially mishit. Rogan had already shown himself uneasy with the ball, and this mistake was going to be fatal. Beside Rogan’s mishit, the goal was a result of Kálmán Kovács’ opportunism: he appears to have gambled on Rogan’s mishit by starting his run in behind the defence, giving him the advantage of several metres when McDonald & co. gave chase after him. K. Kovács could race through on goal, nicely placing the ball behind Tommy Wright. A fantastic example of striker instincts from the Auxerre striker, and this gave Hungary the lead in a game where they never so far had threatened the N. Irish goal.

It was perhaps unforunate for N. Ireland, who played some of their finest football in the qualifiers in this first half. They still produced some chances, and if most of them weren’t big, the Ulstermen anyway looked to have a game plan that worked. The striking pair worked well together, and with Hungary defending quite deep, the two had short way to goal when they won the physical battles (which they often did!). The midfield was one of the more dynamic fielded by Bingham so far. Especially the industrious McCreery, who intercepted many Hungarian passes, and the lively D. Wilson were driving the home side forward. Whiteside was not up to his old self, but still contributed with his presence and vision, while Black still didn’t quite live up to the standard he had set for Nottm Forest in the First Division. The re-introduction of the striking pair Quinn and Clarke plus a more dynamic midfield looked to have helped N. Ireland. Still, most of their chances were restricted to shots from a too long distance, perhaps, to threaten P. Disztl.

Hungary had striven to find their shape after their opening match, and this was yet another performance well below anything expected from a World Cup participant. Once again they mostly came out beaten in battling for the ball, and they were far too slow and ambitious in their build-up play to create chances. They would usually pass around the ball between themselves, hoping for Détári to do the spectacular, without too many other initiaitves off the ball. Détári, however, probably saw less of the ball in this half than in any other match in the qualifiers. Much thanks to a very aggressive Northern Irish side.

What saved Hungary in this match was the outstanding quality of individual players. 1-0 was a brilliant example of striker instincts from K. Kovács, 2-0 was a simply unstoppable shot by Gy. Bognár from 25 metres out. Détári had tried his luck a minute earlier from a free-kick, which Tommy Wright just managed to save. The resulting corner ended up with Gy. Bognár who seemingly wanted to show that he could do better than Détári, and proved that he had must have had a foot like a traction engine.

The Ulstermen had not let their heads down after letting in the first goal, but must have felt undone by that shot by Gy. Bognár. There had been a few good positives to be taken from their play, but again they had failed to find the goal. Hungary had really not produced anything and were looking sterile, but yet had the quality to score two brilliant goals.

Second half
The second half continued much in the same vein as before the break. Northern Ireland continued to hoist the ball to their strikers and thrust men forward to establish play high up field, and Hungary  passing the ball around patiently waiting for a breakthrough. Again, the hosts looked the side more successful in their approach.

The Hungarians could of course be forgiven for not being too eager to create chances after having found the net no less than twice in the first 45 on a much feared venue. But their play was similar to a worrying pattern, as the Hungarian attack has looked predictable and slow under Bicskei. One suspects that they possibly could be a good counter-attacking side (Players like Détári, Gy. Bognár and K. Kovács should be perfectly suited for counter-attacks), but there had been no will to take such opportunities. Instead, there had been a lot of slow build-up play, in a manner that one senses was too ambitious given the Hungarian players’ technical abilities. Sloppy passing had flourished, and the maestro himself, Détári, had been no better than the rest. He is a player that so often wants to find that penetrating pass, but a surprisingly high number of his passes are wasted. All in all, the Hungarian passing accuracy was nothing short of abysmal this evening.

Détári was employed in a bit deeper role after the break, which contributed to give Hungary a bit more possession, but given his aforementioned sloppy passing, he didn’t create a lot with the ball. Bicskei had created a lopsided midfield with Gy. Bognár given licence to cut inside, and seemingly the idea was to involve Sallai more in the spaces in front of him. Sadly this didn’t work too well, much because of Sallai’s after all limited abilities in going forward. Gy. Bognár is a player who with his movement can pull the opponents out of position, but N. Ireland kept their structure throughout and did well to keep him quiet. Sass just looked uncomfortable with the stlyle of play. Another part of Hungary’s problem was the lack of involvement of the two strikers, who both had rather uneventful evenings. While K. Kovácss played in a poacher role, more involvement should surely be expected of Fischer. K. Kovács got the only big chance for Hungary after the break: again the ball was gifted to him from a careless N. Irish defender, allowing the opportunistic and speedy K. Kovács to advance one-on-one with Wright – this time, however, his finishing let him down.

N. Ireland remained the more potent team, creating a few decent opportunities also in the 2nd half. The battle stood between the three central defensive players of Hungary (the centre halves + E. Kovács) against the two strikers and Whiteside, who continued to shuttle forward and use his physical presence. This battle was numerically even, and with N. Ireland the more aggressive side, they constantly won the important duels that allowed them to establish play in dangerous areas. One difference from the 1st half was the fading of Danny Wilson, who had been so energetic before the break. The team was, though, not dependent on him and kept going. Bingham must however have felt obliged to do something to try and get that first goal, and after 20 minutes he decided to replace Quinn with Michael O’Neill. O’Neill took place in central midfield, with Whiteside moving up front. This could give some more skill in midfield and more fire power on top, but they would also miss the physical presence of Quinn.

N. Ireland took some minutes to adjust after the substitution, but the last 15 minutes of the match saw them create a host of opportunities. McDonald went close twice on corners, so did Whiteside, before Colin Clarke finally looked to have given N. Ireland their well-deserved goal when played through by Michael O’Neill. However, the Swedish linesman ruled it out: a wrong decision, unfortunately for Northern Ireland. It didn’t look like their day. N. Ireland did however manage to score, their solitary goal coming just a few minutes before the end signal. The goal was the result of a completely untypical move in this match: a cross from a wide midfielder – which of course makes one ask why they hadn’t tried this before. The much improved Rogan found D. Wilson alone on the wide right, and Wilson put in a cross which Whiteside – like all evening long – did well to come first to. 1-2. It was really the first time the Ulstermen managed to get in a cross, and as expected the strikers took well care of it. Either D. Wilson or the largely anonymous Black should probably have tried this a bit earlier. The goal is scored in the 90th minute of play, and it is too late to change anything.

Bingham looks resigned as he applauds his team off the pitch.

The Hungarians take all the 2 points at Windsor Park. They win thanks to two moments of individual brilliance, while their performance in general is quite poor. They are second best in almost all battles, waste the ball both under and without pressure, and mostly play sideways without any penetration at all. Northern Ireland are desperately unlucky not to get any points from this encounter. Bingham had reverted to the success formula with Quinn and Clarke in tandem, now supported by the talismanic Whiteside. Their long ball tactics and aggressivity should normally have paid off, but they still find it hard to score in these qualifiers.


N. Ireland
Wright 6.5
Not at fault for the goals
Fleming 6.7
Uses his pace; hardly challenged by the opposition
Worthington 7.0
Reliable as alwys, but could have given Black more support.
Rogan 7.2
Makes a major howler; otherwise one of his best internationals, with many interceptions.
McDonald 6.7
Not too many worries as the cover defender of the central defence pairing.
McCreery 7.2
Important for the aggressivity in midfield; many successful tackles.
D. Wilson 7.3
Energetic in the 1st half, disappears somewhat after the break.
Quinn 7.0
Hard-working, lays the ball well off.
(M. O’Neill -)
Good on the ball, gives new spark to the team.
Clarke 6.9
Played to his strengths; should have done a bit better with laying the ball off.
Whiteside 7.2
Does well to link up with the attack; too aggressive at times.
Black 6.5
Spirited, but still doesn’t look quite comfortable in this team.

P. Disztl 6.7
Had only a few difficult saves to make.
Sallai 6.9
Dependable and heavily involved; could to better when going forward.
Keller 6.5
Hardly involved at all in this match!
L. Disztl 6.5
As the other Hungarians, found it difficult to handle N. Ireland’s aereal power.
E. Kovács 6.7
Tries to shield the defence, but doesn’t succeed to well.
Limperger 6.7
Puts himself in to battle, although he does lose a good number of duels.
Gy. Bognár 6.7
Good movement, as always, but largely ineffective.
(Z. Bognár –
Employed in a midfield role)
Sass 6.5
Does not seem to fit in Hungary’s style of play.
Fischer 6.3
Stranded on his own.
(Hajszán –)
Détári 6.5
One of his more anonymous displays; not very creative, not very accurate in his passing.
K. Kovács 7.0
Shows good opportunism.

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