Scots suffer heaviest loss at Hampden in 31 years

Scotland 0 - Hungary 3
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The Independent Online

In the heyday of Hungarian football, when they famously routed England 6-3 and 7-1, Scotland restricted the magical Magyars to a 4-2 win in Glasgow. Both countries have endured a steep decline in their fortunes in the ensuing half-century, yet the margin of Hungary's success in last night's friendly was even greater than that achieved by Ferenc Puskas and his comrades.

In the heyday of Hungarian football, when they famously routed England 6-3 and 7-1, Scotland restricted the magical Magyars to a 4-2 win in Glasgow. Both countries have endured a steep decline in their fortunes in the ensuing half-century, yet the margin of Hungary's success in last night's friendly was even greater than that achieved by Ferenc Puskas and his comrades.

Two goals either side of half time by Szabolcs Huszti, the first following a mistaken penalty award and the second a fierce shot, ensured Scotland would not end a run without a win in a non-competitive game here which dates back to 1996. An ignominious, if unwitting, own goal by David Marshall on the 19-year-old Celtic goalkeeper's debut compounded their misery.

That it was "only" a friendly was the sole saving grace for the Scots. However, the World Cup qualifying campaign opens in just 20 days, and the Scotland coach, Berti Vogts, selected Hungary for their penultimate warm-up fixture precisely because they are similar in style to their opening opponents, Slovenia.

As Scotland's captain, Barry Ferguson, remarked after a patchy personal display following an eight-month absence through injury: "Slovenia are supposedly on a par with Hungary, so we've obviously got a hard game on our hands. That's eight years since we won a friendly at Hampden, which is no laughing matter. We need to get on the training pitch and sort it out."

Easier said than done when Vogts seldom has the players at his disposal for more than two days. Vogts has one more match, against Spain in Valencia on 3 September, to instil some semblance of organisation and discipline. He described the evening as "a very good lesson" and detected positives in Ferguson's comeback and a spirited showing by Nigel Quashie. They were scant consolation for a sparse crowd.

Vogts has reputedly kissed and made up with Lothar Matthäus, with whom he admitted having fought frequently when they were coach and senior player respectively with Germany. Scotland's generosity took the spirit of rapprochement to extremes, however, even if their sides looked evenly matched until first-half stoppage time.

The French referee refused Scotland a penalty when Darren Fletcher, having his shirt tugged outside the 18-yard box, tumbled into the area. Hungary countered through Zoltan Gera, a deep-lying attacker in the great Hungarian tradition who is newly signed to West Bromwich Albion.

Gera threaded a pass to the lively substitute Peter Kovacs, who wriggled away from Andy Webster before clipping his own heel and going down in instalments. This time, bizarrely, the official pointed to the spot, Huszti's kick sending the hitherto inactive Marshall the wrong way.

Eight minutes after the break, the game turned into Huszti's benefit night. The wing-back, who had scored only once for Hungary before arriving at Hampden, was allowed to advance unchecked from midfield before unleashing a left-footed drive from 25 yards which flashed into the net off Marshall's right post.

Immediately, James McFadden had Scotland's best chance, but his shot was blocked. Apart from the occasional long-range effort, the new Crystal Palace keeper Gabor Kiraly's most urgent activity came when he arched in mid-air to tip the ball over after it broke high and goalwards following a fifth-minute challenge between Kenny Miller and Peter Stark.

Marshall was less fortunate with 17 minutes remaining. No sooner had he demonstrated great agility to keep out an overhead kick by Gera than Peter Simek surged down Hungary's left wing. Steven Pressley slid in to clear his cross but succeeded only in directing the ball against the keeper's backside. The ball trickled into the net, completing Scotland's heaviest Hampden defeat in 31 years.

Scotland (4-1-3-2): Marshall (Celtic); Holt (Norwich), Pressley (Hearts), Webster (Hearts), Naysmith (Everton); G Caldwell (Hibernian); Fletcher (Manchester United), Quashie (Portsmouth), Ferguson (Blackburn); Miller (Wolverhampton Wanderers), McFadden (Everton). Substitutes: Thompson (Rangers) for G Caldwell, 45; Crawford (Plymouth) for Miller, 58; Severin (Aberdeen) for Ferguson, 71; Pearson (Celtic) for Fletcher, 75.

Hungary (3-4-1-2): Kiraly (Crystal Palace); Juhasz (MTK Budapest), Stark (Gyori ETO), A Toth (Vasas Budapest); Bodnar (Roda Kerkrade), Feher (PSV Eindhoven), Molnar (BB Ankaraspor), Huszti (Ferencvaros); Gera (West Brom); Torghelle (Crystal Palace), Simek (Ujpest Dosza). Substitutes: Kovaks (Viking Stavanger) for Torghelle, 25; Rosa (Ferencvaros) for Ferer, 63; Leandro (Ferencvaros) for Gera, 76.

Referee: L Duhamel (France).

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