Padania confirmed their status as one of the favourites at this summer’s tournament by finishing the group stages with a 100% record at the hands of the one of the surprise packages of the World Football Cup, the Szekely Land.
Three first half goals were enough to put the game to bed, but it all could have been different if Barna Bajko hadn’t hit the bar with a penalty for the Szekely Land early in the second half. A last minute consolation goal from substitute Laszlo Szocs spoiled Padania’s clean sheet, but the Northern Italians dominated Group C and have set up a tie with Panjab in the quarter finals as they look to build on last summer’s European Football Cup victory.
Kick off was delayed by 5 minutes as Padania’s national anthem overran, although it was beautifully performed by a live soprano opera singer. The Szekely Land started the game brightly but were second best in the middle of the park throughout the game, a weak spot that could make their quarter final against West Armenia tricky.
Padania were frequently thwarted by the offside flag in the early stages, but managed to take the lead after twenty minutes when a cross floated across the goal line but was collected by Ersid Pllumbaj whose ball into the six yard box made it impossible for Gianluca Rolandone to miss.
Padania were 2-0 up before the half hour mark, a poor back pass saw Giacomo Innocenti nick the ball of the Szekely Land centre back and gave the keeper no chance with a good finish inside the box.
It was all but over on the stroke of half time after a fantastic piece of skill from Innocenti to control a long ball over the top won his side a corner. The ball was whipped in under the crossbar and Barna Nagy couldn’t keep hold of the cross, the burst out of his hands onto the head of Pllumbaj, who didn’t know much about his side’s third goal as it floated over the line.
Szekely Land came out for the second half with more positive attacking attitude. This paid off when they won a penalty within ten minutes of the half starting, only for Bajko to hit the bar. An altercation in the box after the penalty was taken saw a man from both sides booked, and summed up how the match was going to unfold for the Hungarian diaspora.
The trailing side have several shots on target but couldn’t test Marco Murriero in the Padania goal until the final minute of the game. An intercepted pass on the halfway line found its way to Laszlo Szocs who attempted to lob the ball over Murriero, however an acrobatic leap prevented his initial shot from going in, but the ball fell straight back to the forward who calmly volleyed his shot into the far corner.
The full time whistle blew and although the Padanians had conquered their third opponents in the space of four days, it was the vocal Szekely Land fans who made their feelings of appreciation heard after the game, with the entire squad locking arms to take in the applause of their supporters. They’ll travelled to Bromley on Tuesday for their quarter final and you can guarantee their fans will once again bring a party atmosphere to their sides most important game to date.