Hungary midfielder Mate Patkai scored his first international goal to secure a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over World Cup runners-up Croatia in a Euro 2020 Group E qualifier yesterday. The result in a pulsating match threw the group wide open after Wales beat Slovakia 1-0 in Cardiff earlier.
Slovakia, Wales, Hungary and Croatia have three points each while Azerbaijan have none, although like the Welsh the Azeris have only played one game while the rest have played two. The Croatians, who laboured to a 2-1 home win over Azerbaijan on Thursday, appeared set for plain sailing when Ante Rebic gave them a sixth-minute lead from close range after Andrej Kramaric poked a low cross into his path.
But Hungary, roared on by a fervent home crowd in the Groupama Arena, levelled in the 34th through striker Adam Szalai who took a clever Balazs Dzsudzsak pass into his stride and powered his shot past keeper Lovre Kalinic from a tight angle. Captain Dzsudzsak, who celebrated a milestone 100th international appearance with a fine display, was at the heart of Hungary’s spirited performance which was rewarded by Patkai’s 76th-minute winner after Croatia failed to clear a corner. Croatia substitute Marin Leovac failed to head away the inswinging set piece and Patkai steered the ball past Kalinic from two metres to delight the home faithful while silencing a large contingent of vocal away fans.
Hungary, who lost 2-0 away to Slovakia in their opener, nearly scored again several minutes later as Croatia cleared the ball of the line three times in a frantic goalmouth scramble and failed to threaten at the other end in the closing stages. Earlier, Wales midfielder Daniel James netted a fifth-minute winner against Slovakia with his first international goal on his competitive debut for the Welsh, who visit Croatia in their next qualifier on June 8 when Hungary travel to Azerbaijan.
Scotland see off San Marino after Kazakh humiliation
Scotland returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win away to perennial makeweights San Marino that followed a humiliating defeat by Kazakhstan in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier.
Thursday’s 3-0 loss in Astana was widely labelled as Scotland’s worst result in their football history and this victory over San Marino, the world’s lowest-ranked side — who kicked off having lost 89 of their previous 90 matches — is unlikely to ease the pressure on manager Alex McLeish.
It took the Scots under four minutes to score against San Marino when Norwich midfielder Kenny McLean, one of six changes made by McLeish, headed in a cross from Ryan Fraser.
But Scotland then had to wait until 16 minutes from from time for a second goal that sealed victory in this Group I tie. Johnny Russell eased Scottish nerves with a shot high into the roof of the net following a counter-attack inspired by Celtic forward James Forrest, who’d only been on the field for three minutes after coming off the bench.
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