Hungary inflict England’s worst home defeat in 94 years

The Three Lions were steamrollered 4-0 by Hungary and reduced to 10 men in a shocking result

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Gareth Southgate suffered the worst night of his six-year England tenure as his Euro 2020 runners-up were thrashed 4-0 by Hungary in the Nations League match at Molineaux on Tuesday. They had been edged 1-0 ten days ago by the same opponents in Budapest, but this was a hundred times worse. Fans were seen leaving the stadium with 15 minutes left and there were mutinous boos at the end for the manager and his players.

 

A brace from the excellent Roland Sallai followed by goals from Zsolt Nagy and Daniel Gazdag inflicted England’s worst home defeat since a 5-1 loss to Scotland in 1928. The result also had shades of another famous match from 1953, when Hungary came to England and beat them 6-3 in what was dubbed the “Match of the Century”. But that team was Hungary’s golden generation. This iteration is ranked 40th by FIFA, whereas England are 5th.

England came into this match bottom of Group A3 after a loss and two draws previously. But they had been much improved in the draws, which came against Germany and Italy. This match was seen as a way to get their Nations League campaign firmly back on track. Hungary, who were second in the group, had other ideas.

 

The match began with England in control. They created several opportunities, Jarrod Bowen having a close-range header blocked by a defender in the 6th minute after fine work from Reece James down the left. Then Hungary came up with a sucker punch out of thin air.

 

Kalvin Phillips fouled the England-born Callum Styles out on the right wing. Styles, who qualifies for Hungary through his grandmother, swung the freekick into the box. John Stones could only head across the area. Harry Kane tried to clear but kicked thin air, allowing the ball to run to Sallai who rifled home gleefully. Aaron Ramsdale stuck out an arm but the power on the shot was too much. 15 minutes in and the away side had the lead.

 

The crowd let their displeasure be known after the first goal. But if they thought conceding first would galvanize their team for an instant response, they were wrong. Instead it was Hungary who grew into the game. From a freekick on the left in the 28th minute, Dominik Szoboslai sent in a vicious ball that had to be cleared off the line by James. The Hungarian playmaker then rushed back to put a stop to England’s counter-attack.

The summary of the England vs. Hungary of the UEFA Nations League 2022-2023: video, goals and statistics
Hungary’s Willi Orban and England’s Jarrod Bowen in action.

 

Stones then got a header on target from a corner but it was straight at Denes Dibusz in goal. But England kept shipping possession cheaply in the middle, allowing the red shirts to press and harry them. The Three Lions’ best chance came when Willi Orban sent a diving header towards his own goal, but Dibusz parried brilliantly.

The half ended with England regaining some possession but not creating much with it. Southgate turned to a proven goalscorer in Raheem Sterling, sending him on in place of Bowen at the interval. The Manchester City man was lively after coming on, turning England into a consistent threat for the first time in the match.

But they met a brick wall in Hungary, who effectively slowed the game down. Marco Rossi’s men held their shape well, keeping England at bay and looking to counter when they got the ball. Then they struck again in the 70th minute.

A speculative ball forward from Hungary saw Phillips fail to control, allowing substitute Martin Adam to nick the ball away. Adams played in Sallai, who had gotten in behind Kyle Walker and poked the finish past Ramsdale. It was the stuff of Hungarian dreams, and there was yet more to come.

Roland Sallai celebrates his second goal. (Photo Credits: Getty Images)

Kane came closest to pulling one back for England, sending a looping header onto the crossbar in the 77th minute. Instead it was Hungary who extended the gap even further. A cross into the box 10 minutes from time was headed by Loic Nego straight at Stones. The ball broke to Adam, who set the ball up for Zsolt Nagy to thunder in a gem of a strike into the bottom left from the edge of the box.

 

It went from bad to worse for England when Stones, who had been booked in the first half, received a rather harsh second yellow for blocking off the sub Daniel Gazdag. Stone protested his innocence and video evidence seemed to support him, but VAR could not interfere with yellow card decisions.

 

After the dismissal, Southgate was forced to bring on Harry Maguire for Bukayo Saka, a decision that was met with derision from the stands. In the 89th minute, Gazdag put the final nail in the coffin. From a forensic Adam Nagy pass down the middle, the Philadelphia Union midfielder held off Walker before dinking the ball over the onrushing Ramsdale into the net.

After the final whistle, Hungarian players went over to celebrate lustily with their traveling supporters, and for good reason. Germany’s rout of Italy meant that Hungary were suddenly top of the group. More importantly, they had achieved one of the most shocking results of the last few years, thrashing England in their own backyard. They will relish the upcoming matches against Germany and Italy, knowing the menace they can be to those top sides.

 

For England, this was a night to forget, to be consigned to a deep dark pit of misery. Their Nations League campaign is in tatters. They would do well to avoid relegation to League B. Far more important, however, is the damage this result could do to their preparation for the Qatar World Cup. Southgate is one of the most successful managers England have ever had, but this one result has put his position in some jeopardy. It will take some effort to bring the team out of the toxic situation they find themselves in.

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