Northern Ireland beat Hungary to claim first away win in four years

Michael O’Neill’s side come from behind with goals from Kyle Lafferty and Niall McGinn

Hungary 1 Northern Ireland 2

Kyle Lafferty and Niall McGinn were the scorers as Northern Ireland marked the ninth anniversary of their famous victory over England by grabbing a dramatic 2-1 win in their Euro 2016 opener in Hungary.

September 7th will always be a special day for Northern Ireland and ever more so after Lafferty bundled home the scrappiest, most ecstatic finish of his career to give his side a first away success in four long years.

Hungary had looked set to take the points on their first outing at the new Groupama Arena when former Watford striker Tamas Priskin headed home a 74th-minute corner but two goals in the last 10 minutes for the visitors ripped up the script.


Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill gambled with a change of formation for his side’s Group F opener.

Having gone with a 3-5-2 formation in recent matches, O'Neill reverted to four at the back, with West Brom midfielder Chris Brunt drafted in as an emergency left back and Fleetwood's Conor McLaughlin making his first competitive start on the right.

Lafferty was also restored to the starting XI having missed the summer tour of South America.

Hungary were without injured midfielder Zoltan Gera and picked former Liverpool reserve team goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi ahead of Bolton's Adam Bogdan.

Northern Ireland had a sniff of goal in just the fourth minute, Lafferty winning the battle for Chris Baird's cross and turning the ball deftly into the path of Jamie Ward.

However, the Derby man had more time than he thought and his snatched attempt scuttled tamely into the turf before bobbling through to Gulacsi.

The hosts responded in kind almost immediately, breaking down the right wing through Adam Gyurcso, who found Balazs Dzsudzsak arriving in the box. He aimed a first time effort towards the far post but saw it squirm wide.

Hungary were taking their time to settle in their new surroundings but again looked dangerous when Zoltan Liptak’s floated pass found Gyurcso in space for the second time.

He controlled the ball well and cut it towards goal but Brunt was on hand to beat the red shirts to the punch.

Ward almost got a chance at the other end with 15 minutes gone, pick-pocketing Liptak in the box but being tackled before he could get a shot away.

Corry Evans missed a golden opportunity on the cusp of half-time, blazing over horribly after Ward's shot had been parried by Gulacsi.

Hungary had been slowly establishing their dominance when Ward charged down a clearance on the halfway line and surged towards goal to set up the chance.

As the half progressed, Northern Ireland were forced on to the back foot, Dzsudzsak and Gergely Rudolf beginning to find more space going forward.

Dzsudzsak, in particular, was emerging as the game’s dominant force, testing the opposition defenders with a series neat flicks and teasing crosses

An overly officious referee in Deniz Ayetkin was doing little to help the flow of the game though, with the visitors more often than not getting pulled up for marginal fouls.

When a decision finally fell in their favour, Lafferty felled on the left of the penalty box, Oliver Norwood made a hash of the free-kick.

It seemed as though O’Neill’s side were hanging on for the interval until Ward provided the moment of inspiration that should have led to the opener had Evans managed a more composed finish.

There was a solitary change at the break as Priskin came on up front for Hungary.

But there was no real chance for him to get involved as the game entered a period of stalemate, Aytekin’s frequent whistle blasts making him the most active man on the pitch for a spell.

A second attacking change for Hungary, Gergo Lovrencsics for Gyurcso, signalled their intent to push for the points and it was the newcomer who drew the first meaningful save of the game from Roy Carroll.

That came with 62 minutes on the clock, Lovrencsics letting fly from the edge of the box and Carroll diving to his left to touch round the post.

O’Neill went to bench by necessity, the lively Ward taking a knock and making way for Niall McGinn with 25 minutes remaining.

With 15 minutes still to play the opener arrived. Lovrencsics saw his shot charged down by Brunt but Hungary ensured the resulting corner paid dividends.

Dzsudzsak whipped in a wonderful set-piece and, with the dominant figure of Gareth McAuley absent, Northern Ireland allowed Priskin to get the critical header in a packed six-yard box.

They might easily have buckled but instead they mustered an equaliser just six minutes later.

Huge credit goes to Lafferty for his part, coming deep for the ball before navigating a roundabout way past the Hungary backline.

When he opened his legs he quickly found a route into the penalty box, skipping one final challenge before measuring a pass across goal for McGinn to tap home unmarked.

A point would have been a decent return on their day’s work but McGinn had other ideas, collecting Evans’s clever pass and looking for Lafferty at the back post.

The finish was hardly elegant but for Northern Ireland it could not have been sweeter.