KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: England against Hungary is a fixture with a sporting resonance all its own.
A damp midweek afternoon in 1953 shook the English game to its core and prompted the awakening which reached a climax with World Cup triumph at the same venue in 1966.
England maintained their pursuit of a long-awaited cup repeat in tonight’s European Group I qualifier with a 1-1 draw against the latest version of the Magyars but this was a disappointingly ineffective display.
Manager Gareth Southgate had selected a more attacking line-up than usual, with only one holding midfielder in Declan Rice, but the change of plan misfired.
The early minutes saw more action in among the Hungarian fans in one corner of the stadium than on the pitch.
Extra police had been drafted in, partly after the trouble which marred England’s Euro final defeat by Italy, partly out of concern about the visiting fans after the ill-feeling created by the abuse of England players in Budapest last month.
With peace apparently restored and one man arrested, Hungary took the lead from their first incursion into the England penalty area in the 24th minute.
Luke Shaw’s follow-through on a high-kick clearance caught onrushing Loic Nego in the face. Spanish referee Alejandro Hernandez immediately ordered a penalty which Roland Sallai nervelessly converted.
The goal encouraged Hungary to sharpen their tackling and pressing but that meant more fouls and a trip on Jack Grealish proved fatal. Phil Foden curled in a right-wing free kick which was deflected by a defender into the path of John Stones to equalise at the far post.
England had been trailing for just 12 minutes.
They should even have been ahead in first-half stoppage time. Raheem Sterling saw a close-range header parried by keeper Peter Gulacsi and the Manchester City striker jabbed the rebound wide.
England had failed to create anything for a frustrated Harry Kane. He worked an opening for himself early in the second half but his curling shot was easily saved by Gulacsi. Kane then glanced a header wide from a corner.
Hungary, encouraged, began to play more positively and progressively in search of the win which might help them towards the finals for the first time this century. England began to lose control in midfield, allowing Dominik Szoboszlai to finally weave some magic on the counter-attack and substitute Filip Holender shot wastefully over the bar.
By then England manager Gareth Southgate had sent on Jordan Henderson and Tammy Abraham in place of the blunt Kane and Sterling in an attempt to launch a final-phase assault on the Hungarian goal.