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Hungary overcome Maltese hurdle

Wednesday, 17 November 2004

By Domenic Aquilina at Ta' Qali stadium

[1] Hungary moved to within three points of FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 8 leaders Sweden but had to wait until deep into injury time before claiming the second goal that confirmed victory in Malta.

Captain scores

[2] Visiting captain Zoltán Gera opened the scoring for Hungary on 39 minutes, and Péter Kovács wrapped up the win. Malta proved worthwhile opponents, though, but remain bottom of the group with one point from four games.

Briffa in form

[3] Roderick Briffa played superbly for the home team, and in the sixth minute his perfectly lofted cross from the right found Ivan Woods in the ideal scoring position, but the latter's neat header was parried by Gábor Kiraly in the Hungarian goal.

Habel denies Waltner

[4] On 16 minutes Hungary went close when Robert Waltner was dispossessed by Maltese goalkeeper Justin Haber at the last gasp. Midway through the half both Hungary's Szabolcs Huszti and Maltese captain Gilbert Agius sent free-kicks over the bar, and the latter then just missed the target after Stefan Giglio's floated corner.

Hungary ahead

[5] Haber saved from Waltner on 36 minutes after Huszti and Sándor Torghelle combined to set up the chance, but soon after Hungary were ahead when Torghelle headed down for Gera to beat the home goalkeeper with a neatly-placed drive.

Mifsud threat

[6] Malta were not disheartened and began well after the break. Michael Mifsud, always a threat, ran down the left before finding Briffa, whose effort struck the post. Hungary responded as Waltner headed just wide after Gera's pass.

Post struck

[7] Kovács replaced Torghelle in the 67th minute, and within three minutes Hungary nearly had a second as Tamás Hajnal broke after Briffa lost the ball in midfield only for his eventual shot to strike Haber's right-hand post. Briffa himself made another chance a quarter-hour from the end, his corner headed just wide by Giglio with Kiraly stranded.

Kovács clincher

[8] Pál Dardai then shot over for Hungary, but Malta continued to press and as the game entered added time Haber's free-kick eventually found its way to Etienne Barbara, only for Kiraly to stop his attempt. With the home defence committed, Hungary claimed their second in the final seconds, Hajnal finding Kovács, who tapped into an empty net. His side next meet Bulgaria on 30 March, when Malta travel to Croatia.

Zoltán Gera celebrates his goal