Horror penalty decision sees Three Lions lose Nations League opener after poor performance in Budapest

In front of a crowd or school children, England paid the fine for playing like school boys.

Had thousands of Hungarian youth not been booing Gareth Southgate’s side before the game, all the headlines would have been about England’s worst performance in some time.

Dominik Szoboszlai broke the deadlock with a penalty in the 66th minute

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Dominik Szoboszlai broke the deadlock with a penalty in the 66th minutePhoto credit: Getty
RB Leipzig ace Szoboszlai was bullied by his teammates after scoring against England

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RB Leipzig ace Szoboszlai was bullied by his teammates after scoring against EnglandPhoto credit: AFP

But if that awkward moment left a bad taste in your mouth, it shouldn’t take anything away from a home side that absolutely deserved their first win over the Three Lions in 60 years.

That win came in the group stage of the 1962 World Cup.

Southgate has his lucky stars to thank that this year’s edition will start in November rather than later this month.

Yes, there were serious doubts about the award of the penalty after a tackle by substitute Reece James, which Dominik Szoboszlai converted.

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But the more important debate was when was the last time England had played so poorly.

The consensus was to go back to September 2020 and a goalless draw in Denmark or the lucky win in Iceland that immediately preceded it.

These games marked the start of the last Nations League season.

This one also stops by before it has even started.

Reece James is said to have fouled Zsolt Nagy shortly after he was substituted on

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Reece James is said to have fouled Zsolt Nagy shortly after he was substituted onPhoto credit: AFP
West Ham winger Jarrod Bowen impressed on his debut for England against Hungary

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West Ham winger Jarrod Bowen impressed on his debut for England against HungaryPhoto credit: AFP

Fragile in defence, sloppy in midfield, lackluster in attack, England put on a poor performance that the season long preceding could explain but not excuse.

Hungary were a very different side to those who were beaten 4-0 here last year, adding to the defensive solidity they showed in the subsequent 1-1 draw at Wembley.

England are perhaps fortunate that there were no fans who came to boo them off the pitch.

It would have been hard to blame the Hungarian children for their boisterous celebrations if it weren’t for the earlier incident.

The almost constant sound of horns brought back not very pleasant memories of the vuvuzelas at the World Cup in South Africa.

The cheers from the England team as they came out to warm up were impressively loud.

And the roar after each member of the Hungarian team’s name was read out was enormous.

The children respectfully refrained from booing the English national anthem and sang their own with touching sincerity.

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But then there were loud hoots as Southgate’s starting XI – and not Hungary’s – fell to their knees.

Luckily it was time for some football.

Jarrod Bowen, one of two Three Lions debutants, almost had a dream start but Attila the Hungarian (Fenerbahce defender Attila Szalai) blocked his keen shot.

But England’s other new boy, James Justin, was having something of a nightmare.

When a ball over the top caught the Leicester defender, home full-back Loic Nego crossed, Dominik Szoboszlai touched a shot through Jordan Pickford’s legs and Conor Coady was just in time to clear the ball from one yard.

For much of the first half England looked really ragged down the left flank.

Southgate, recognizing the young full-back’s uneasiness, made a point of giving him a reassuring pat on the back.

The nervousness was contagious. Jude Bellingham, who was often trying too hard, ran into trouble and a Hungarian counterattack ended with Pickford deflecting a long-range effort from Zsolt Nagy.

Arsenal striker Bukayo Saka came close early in the second half after coming on as a substitute

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Arsenal striker Bukayo Saka came close early in the second half after coming on as a substitutePhoto credit: Getty
Leicester full-back James Justin was treated in the first half on his debut with the Three Lions

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Leicester full-back James Justin was treated in the first half on his debut with the Three LionsCredit: PA

Minutes later, home captain Adam Szalai got too close for consolation with an outrageous shot from the center circle.

The visitors were lucky that Hungary had not fully capitalized on a weak opening of 45 minutes.

It came as no surprise that Bukayo Saka replaced Justin in the second half, especially as the Leicester man suffered a knock.

But little has changed. In the right-back battle with the number 7, Nego continued to be far more effective than Trent-Alexander Arnold.

Szoboszlai shot just wide before the England fans watching and waiting at home finally had something to celebrate.

Saka pulled off a Vinicius Jr.-style run that ended with Gulacsi scoring his first significant save of the night.

It was a fleeting relief from a Three Lions performance that was really stinky in the muggy conditions.

It was a disappointing performance from Gareth Southgate's side in Budapest

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It was a disappointing performance from Gareth Southgate’s side in BudapestCredit: PA
England have gone unbeaten in all competitions in their last 22 games, excluding penalties

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England have gone unbeaten in all competitions in their last 22 games, excluding penaltiesPhoto credit: Getty

Southgate made a triple change just after the hour mark to salvage something positive.

Shortly after coming on, James committed the clumsy foul on Nagy that gave Szoboszlai the chance to put Hungary ahead from the penalty spot. He did this to the great applause of the children, who adore him.

Bowen found Gulacsi straight and Conor Coady deflected a header just wide as the visitors created a few belated chances.

But the home side should have made it two when Pickford saved a shot from Laszlo Klenheisler and Nagy somehow sent the connection over the bar.

Another goal would not have flattered Hungary.

Harry Kane – note this is the first mention of his name – had a couple of late shots on target but an equalizer deservedly eluded England.

https://www.the-sun.com/sport/football/premier-league/5490704/hungary-1-england-0-szoboszlai-nations-league/ Horror penalty decision sees Three Lions lose Nations League opener after poor performance in Budapest

ClareFora

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