Hungary in driver’s seat with win at Norway in Euro playoff
Laszlo Kleinheisler scored on his debut to help Hungary to a 1-0 win over Norway in the first leg of their playoff for a spot at next year’s European Championship in France.
Kleinheisler, a midfielder with Hungary’s Videoton, scored in the 26th minute with an angled shot from 15 meters that goalkeeper Orjan Nyland got a hand to but couldn’t keep out.
"It was a sensational experience," said Kleinheisler, who got his start at the Ferenc Puskas Academy founded by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a football fanatic. "I was given an opportunity and I took advantage."
The redheaded 21-year-old is nicknamed "Scholes" after the widely-admired former Manchester United midfielder.
Gabor Kiraly, playing his 100th match for Hungary, inspired his team early when the goalkeeper saved a shot from near the penalty spot by Per Ciljan Skjelbred in the third minute.
Hungary wore black armbands in memory of goalkeeper Marton Fulop, who died Thursday of cancer at age 32.
Asked about his former teammate after the match, Kiraly seemed too overcome by emotions to talk.
Norway dominated the second half but its attacks ended weakly, with the best chance being an 88th minute header from Pal Andre Helland that hit the crossbar after high bounce off a great save by Kiraly.
Hungary will be without veteran midfielder Zoltan Gera, whose latest yellow card — for fouling Alexander Tettey from behind — triggered a suspension.
Both teams are hoping to end many years without top-level tournament football.
Hungary last played in a major competition at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and has not made it to the European Championship since 1972. Norway aims to return to the Euros for the first time since 2000.
Hungary coach Bernd Storck said it was too soon to celebrate as his team still had "a very long 90 minutes" ahead in second leg to be played Sunday in Budapest.