Jeff Brady’s last minute screamer rescued a point for Northern Ireland as they had to endure another frustrating Regions’ Cup evening at Stadio Vallini in Veneto, Italy.
Northern Ireland, who controlled the play for the majority of the game, looked comfortable with their one goal advantage courtesy of Colum Curtis’ first-half strike. Ryan Moffatt’s deep corner on the stroke of half-time was headed down into the six-yard area by Johnny Boyle and skilful attacker Curtis finished from close range with a lovely flick.
Both before and after the opening goal Hungary ‘keeper Róbert Makó made two tremendous saves to deny Paul Maguire and then Moffatt as Northern Ireland looked to make their first-half dominance count. Firstly Maguire’s controlled header from inside the area was expertly pushed past the post. Then a fantastic counter-attack saw Maguire spread the play to Scott McMillan on the right flank, his pinpoint cross was sweetly struck by Moffatt on the volley, from just outside the area, however he was denied his second goal of the tournament by Makó’s wonderful parry.
The second period continued in the same vein with chances for both sides; the Hungarians should have levelled six minutes after the break when Krisztián Less recovered the ball in midfield before slipping a perfectly weighted pass for Imre Domokos, however he wasted blazing over from a great position. Chances of claiming the victory started to look even better for Harry McConkey’s men when their Hungarian counterparts were reduced to 10 men as Ádám Szűcs was shown a second booking with 25 minutes remaining.
However within five minutes, Hungary were amazingly ahead catching out the Northern Irish defence twice with goals from Balázs Pálvölgyi and midfielder Less. László Lakatos’ curling free-kick was glanced home by substitute Pálvölgyl, and then Less raced onto a floated forward ball and expertly beat goalkeeper Johhny Parr.
The game began to get physical as Hungary looked to break up any sort of Northern Irish momentum getting seven cautions in the process. With time running out Northern Ireland netted the goal their performance deserved when Lenaderg-man Brady, with his back to goal, swivelled and fired an effort right into the top corner.
After the game manager Harry McConkey said, “The players refused to lie down and rallied right to the end as we raided the Hungarian final third and it was only just reward that in the final minute of the game Jeff Brady produced a wonder strike from just outside the box.
“This was no more than we deserved for our contribution to a very good game. The statistics show that the Hungarians had seven bookings and one sending off while we had a mere two yellow cards. These statistics tell their own story.
“We must now recover from two very demanding games and give it everything we have to overcome Azerbaijan on Thursday and try and grab second place in a tough group.”