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Szentes senses triumph

Published: Wednesday 5 November 2003, 21.00CET
Lázár Szentes's Debreceni VSC are flying the flag for Hungary in the UEFA Cup. features

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Published: Wednesday 5 November 2003, 21.00CET

Szentes senses triumph

Lázár Szentes's Debreceni VSC are flying the flag for Hungary in the UEFA Cup.
By Márton Dinnyés

Losing finalists in last season's Hungarian Cup, Debreceni VSC have been big winners in Europe this season. The club are now flying the flag for Hungary as they take on Greek side FC PAOK in the UEFA Cup second round.

Coaching credit
Thus coach Lázár Szentes is reminding the big Budapest teams that there is footballing life outside the capital. Since being appointed by Debrecen in 2002, he has led the club to a third-placed finish in the league as well as the cup final that opened their path to continental competition.

Tough life
Nonetheless, Szentes maintains that a coach's lot is not entirely a happy one. "A coach doesn't have too much joy in his life," he told "He is always under pressure because of results, the club, the supporters and the media. That is how it works."

Provincial teams
Fate seems to have kept the 47-year-old away from Budapest. The Bonyhád-born forward played for provincial sides Zalaegerszegi TE and Györi Rába ETO (now Györi ETO FC) in Hungary before three seasons in Portugal from 1987-90.

Management credentials
His coaching career began at Rába in 1992, and he went on to spend five years managing lower-league teams in Austria before returning to Hungary to coach Haladás FC and then Debrecen, who are based in the east of the country near the Romanian border.

Uphill challenge
Working away from the traditional Budapest powerhouses of MTK Hungária FC, Ferencvárosi TC and Újpesti TE, the odds have always been against Szentes. "The best thing a trainer can do in this situation is to strive for maximum performance," he said. "Consequently, I must be very dedicated."

European success
This policy has worked well enough in this season's UEFA Cup. Debrecen slipped past Lithuania's FK Ekranas in the qualifying round before overcoming NK Varteks of Croatia in the first round en route to their tie with PAOK, which begins with an away fixture on Thursday.

Home advantage
While it was a 3-1 first-leg success at Varteks that paved their way to the second round, Szentes knows that Debrecen are strongest on home ground, where they have secured wins against VfL Wolfsburg and FC Girondins de Bordeaux in recent years.

Better atmosphere
"The club does well in the UEFA Cup, particularly when the red-and-whites are at home," he said. "We are given enormous support from the fans so the players feel relaxed and even more motivated and therefore perform better."

Sensible target
The aim for this week is to ensure Debrecen leave themselves with a reasonable target for victory after the first leg in Thessaloniki. "We have a chance although at the moment it is nothing more than that," he said. "We need to concentrate for the whole 90 minutes. That's the most important aim for UEFA Cup games."

League difficulty
European competition has brought the best out of Debrecen, and they have been performing well in the league too, lying behind MTK in joint-second place. However, Szentes believes his attack-minded team, who employ speedy wingers and boast excellent movement off the ball, have more to prove in the league than the UEFA Cup.

Consistency counts
"A club has to bring many things together to finish at the top of the table, especially if they're not from Budapest," he said. "To win one match on the European stage, which is sometimes enough to secure qualification, is completely different to being victorious week in, week out."

Last updated: 06/11/03 23.23CET

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