MARSEILLE – An own-goal by Iceland’s Birkir Savarsson in the dying seconds rescued a draw for Hungary in a frenetic Euro 2016 clash that keeps both team’s hopes alive of a second round berth.
A first-half penalty by Gylfi Sigurdsson put little Iceland on course for a fairytale win. But the European Championship newcomers succumbed to waves of late Hungarian pressure.
With 88 minutes gone, substitute Nemanja Nikolic sent a low ball into the area and the onrushing Savarsson touched the ball into his own net.
“It feels like a loss, we were so close, we were going for the three points, but we failed to finish the game off,” said man of the match Iceland striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.
“Any team that concedes a goal that late, we were happy with a point against Portugal but we are are disappointed with a draw against Hungary,” said joint Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson.
“The dressing room was silent after the game, we were so close to securing (qualification) but we were playing a very good team, maybe tomorrow we will be happy with a point against Hungary,” he added.
The Magyars’ coach Bernd Storck said his side deserved the point against an Iceland side that Portugal also struggled to break down.
“We never gave up, we always believed, we had so much possession, my side always tried to play football and create chances,” he said.
Prior to the tournament both teams viewed this Marseille tie as their best opportunity to get a win. But unfancied Hungary’s shock 2-0 victory against Austria on Tuesday meant a slot in the last-16 beckoned if they could beat the Scandinavians.
Hungary had more of the ball throughout, but, more used to playing a counter-attacking game, they failed to craft clearcut openings against a physical Iceland defence.
Their midfield trio of Laszlo Kleinheisler, Balazs Dzsudzsak and Zoltan Stieber probed industriously in the opening period. But the nearest they came to hitting the target in the first half was a Kleinheisler effort that raked across the goalmouth on 33 minutes.
In contrast, Iceland attacks carried more direct menace, with their best chance falling to Johann Gudmundsson on the half hour.
Having found himself one-on-one against Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly he angled a weak shot straight at the 40-year-old, the oldest player ever to play at a European Championship final.
Approaching half-time Kiraly took centre-stage in a horror show he will want to forget.
Six minutes before the break he fumbled a corner from Johann Gudmundsson, then tripped Ragnar Sigurdsson while grappling to recover the ball.
In the scramble that ensued referee Sergei Karasev pointed to the spot for a kick by Kadar on Gunnarsson.
Sigurdsson fired smartly to the left to give the Scandinavians the lead. Kiraly kicked the ball away in disgust.
After the break the Magyars upped the pressure with Kleinheisler quickly blasting over twice in five minutes.
But it was Iceland who could have extended their lead on the hour, Sigthorsson heading wide from point-blank range after a pinpoint cross by Sigurdsson.
The goal-shy Magyars â€“ who only scored 11 goals in 10 qualifying games â€“ toiled relentlessly for the leveller with Dzsudzsak twice sending free-kicks straight at Hannes Halldorsson.
As Hungary anxiously sought an equaliser Bernd Storck pushed up three strikers including substitutes Adam Szalai and Nikolic but they appeared to lack the final breakthrough touch.
Until the own goal finally brought the equaliser to break Icelandic hearts.
Iceland, who nearly stole a winner with the final kick, a deflected snapshot by substitute former Chelsea and Barcelona forward Eidur Gudjohnsen, face Austria on Wednesday in their final group game.
The Nordic minnows need a win to seal a berth in the knockout stages. Hungary can progress by avoiding defeat against Portugal in Lyon the same day. â€” AFP