Wales made to pay for Bale miss as Hungary snatch late win
Ryan Giggs’ side are now six points adrift of the Group E leaders.
Wales suffered a hurtful Euro 2020 qualifying defeat as Group E leaders Hungary beat them 1-0 in Budapest.
Mate Patkai drove home the winner 10 minutes from time after Wales – 32 places above Hungary in the world rankings – had failed to clear the ball in their own penalty area.
It was a second defeat for Wales in the space of four days and leaves them six points behind Hungary, albeit with a game in hand, and three adrift of Slovakia and Croatia.
Patkai’s strike will have proved especially painful for Gareth Bale, who had a moment in front of goal on the hour mark that he will want to forget.
Wales sprung the Hungary offside trap superbly as David Brooks swerved away from his marker and fed the ball into Tom Lawrence’s path.
Lawrence looked up and picked out the unmarked Bale, but the Real Madrid forward scooped the ball straight at Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.
The moment summed up Bale’s current fortunes, seemingly unwanted by his club and without a goal since mid-March.
Wales survived when Joe Allen produced an extraordinary goal-line acrobatic clearance, the Hungarians convinced the ball had crossed the line, but they were not so fortunate following some more sloppy defending.
Ryan Giggs had promised to freshen things up after defeat to Croatia in the draining heat of Osijek, and he was true to his word in making five changes.
David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu had won their fitness battles, while Chris Gunter, winning cap number 96, and Lawrence also came in to what appeared to be a bold starting line-up.
Ashley Williams reclaimed the armband to win his 86th cap and move to outright third place on the all-time Wales’ appearances list, despite being without a club after being released by Everton last week.
Hungary were handicapped by the banishment of Marco Rossi, their Italian manager, to the stands after he was sent from the touchline during the 3-1 win in Azerbaijan on Saturday.
But Hungary were full of confidence after building on their surprise victory of World Cup finalists Croatia in March.
Gunter was booked inside 100 seconds for bundling over Dominik Szoboszlai and Wales had to be wary of the muscular approach of centre-forward Adam Szalai.
Hungary carried a threat from set-pieces and Szoboszlai headed wide before Holender was inches away from applying the final touch to Szalai’s cross.
Wales started with Manchester United-bound Daniel James through the middle, but Giggs changed personnel around halfway through the first period with little progress being made.
James moved to the left, Lawrence went central, and the switch almost paid dividends instantly.
The Swansea winger went on a superb 50-yard run down the left flank before feeding Lawrence for a shot which was held by Gulascsi.
Willi Orban headed Balazs Dzsudzsak’s corner into the side netting, but half-time arrived with both defences firmly on top.
Wales were forced into a change soon after the re-start with the grimacing Ampadu holding his side and replaced by Matthew Smith, and Hungary were almost ahead when Szoboszlai fired just over.
Bale’s miss would prove the turning point of the contest as Hungary sensed that it was their night.
Hennessey pushed out substitute Laszlo Kleinheisler’s firm drive and only Allen’s acrobatics kept the scores level.
But there was no escape when Szalai made a nuisance of himself for the umpteenth time and Patkai pounced on the loose ball and leave Wales with an uphill climb to qualify for Euro 2020.