Hungary produced a disciplined defensive display to keep Poland at bay in a fervent Chorzów atmosphere to remain second in UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying Group 4.
Poland fielded an attacking lineup as they sought the three points they needed to get their campaign back on track after losing their last match to current leaders Latvia. Tomasz Hajto came out of international retirement to play in defence, Marcin Zajac was given a recall on the right of midfield after four years out of the side, and Marcin Kuzba partnered Emmanuel Olisadebe for the first time up front. Hungarian coach Imre Gellei, celebrating his 53rd birthday, was without key striker Zoltán Gera and had admitted a point would be a good result.
Poland on top
Indeed, Hungary's star man proved to be goalkeeper Gábor Kiraly, who made the first of a number of important saves from an early long-range Piotr Swierczewski effort. Olisadebe then headed wide as Poland dominated for the first half-hour. Radoslaw Kaluzny went closest in that spell, heading Kamil Kosowski's cross narrowly wide. Hungary responded with occasional counterattacks, but other than Krisztián Lisztes's thrusting runs and a shot wide from Flórián Urbán, they rarely threatened in the first half.
After the break, Poland continued to attack, but as their frustration grew the visitors created chances of their own. Attila Tököli was showing some good skills when breaking out of defence and he had Hungary's best two chances of the match. On 66 minutes, he was first to a Pál Dárdai cross, only for his close-range effort to be blocked by Jerzy Dudek. Then, seven minutes later, Tököli was sent clear on goal, but his shot hardly troubled Dudek.
It was Dudek's opposite number, Kiraly, that really proved his worth in the final minutes to keep his side in the game. With 11 minutes left, Kosowski found Olisadebe alone in the area, only for Kiraly to somehow block. Twice more in the final few minutes he produced point-blank saves from Olisadebe headers to leave the Nigerian-born forward frustrated, and the away team and fans celebrating a hard-earned point.
‘A tough match’
Polish coach Pawel Janas admitted that his side had "a tough match", before pleading for patience after his side's slow start to the qualifying campaign. "Remember that Hungary have played with the same squad for one-and-a-half years and we have a new team," he said."We also had injuries. I would like to thank my team for their efforts. We wasted many chances but that is football."
‘Kiraly was great’
Gellei, whose side will go top of Group 4 if they beat Sweden in Budapest on Wednesday, said: "We knew Poland were a strong team and played at the [FIFA] World Cup finals. I am happy with a draw after a tough fight." Unsurprisingly, he reserved final praise for his goalkeeper, adding: "Kiraly was great and proved his class tonight."