Soviet Surge Part 12 | Honvéd #3: Goal Hungary

The mission of lifting every league title in Eastern Europe meant there was no room for sentimental attachments for Vladimir Latunov. That was tested when, having succeeded in Poland and Turkey and performed a turnaround in Honvéd’s fortunes, the summer of 2025 saw him headhunted by admirers from afar.

First up was an interview with fellow Hungarian side Fehérvár, who had double Honvéd’s transfer and wage budget but Latunov wasn’t convinced its team was any better. He attended out of interest but, no sooner than that was done with, Bulgarian giants Ludogorets Razgard, Czech sides Viktoria Plzen and Jablonec, and Turkey’s Besiktas – which was flattering but he instantly rejected given Turkey was ticked off his list – also gave the Russian manager a call.

He was happy to continue the task at Honvéd so he set about selling off a whole host of players, which boosted the bank balance above £13 million. However, that figure was what Ludogorets offered up as a transfer budget when they came up with an offer. Latunov was split on whether to stick or twist but eventually decided to show a bit of loyalty and stick with Honvéd.

With the job moves off the cards, he set about bringing in a host of new players. The pick of those is MTK centre-back Botond Eppel, who already has seven caps and a goal for Hungary, for £2 million. He kept things Hungarian with an exciting right-winger in Pál Farkas, who arrived for just £250,000 from champions Ferencváros. He also signed an exciting left-winger in Belarussian 21-year-old Yuriy Lomako, then bolstered the squad by loaning in centre-back Rajko Todorovic, left-winger Claudio Crihana and midfielder Valentyn Veklenko.

Latunov stuck with last year’s successful 4-4-2 setup with Sandro Luiz and Andrei Honceriu continuing to lead the line. And, despite finishing second last season, Honvéd were still predicted to finish seventh this season by the media.

Honvéd in Europe

The new season began with leading Honvéd into Europe for the Europa Conference League Path Second Qualifying Round (whatever that is) against Swiss side FC Vaduz. The home leg was up first and a Honceriu brace sealed a 2-1 win, but it should have been much more comfortable after 20 shots and hitting the woodwork three times. Young starlet János Sallai got injured inside five minutes but his replacement Zsombor Kollár replaced him and scored within three minutes. However, Vaduz turned things around and took it to extra time. Latunov switched Brazilians by bringing Juninho on for Sandro Luiz, and he scored to seal a sneaky away goals progression.

A much tougher test followed against former European champions Red Star Belgrade. The away leg was first this time and Honvéd started well with Lomako crossing for opposite winger Renátó Ulbert to open the scoring. Red Star came flying back to lead 2-1 at the break but Honvéd didn’t wilt and Sandro Luiz’s first of the season then a Dawid Pakulski screamer restored their lead. The Serbian side nicked a late equaliser to make it 3-3, but what a game and a solid result. The return leg started slowly but Lomako opened the scoring just before the hour mark, Red Star equalised, then Sandro Luiz won a penalty that Daniel Gazdag tucked away to seal a 2-1 win and cause a major upset.

The seemingly endless qualification rounds served up Slovakian side MSK Zilina next. Another away tie first saw an awful first half but Zilina deservedly went ahead after 69 minutes. They then won a penalty that 17-year-old Károly Májer saved, then Honvéd nicked a draw as a Zilina defender kicked the ball into Honceriu’s chest and it deflected into the net. Back on home ground, Honvéd dominated the first half and went ahead with a brilliant Gazdag free-kick then raced into a 3-0 lead through Honceriu and Pakulski. Zilina came back into it after the break but Honceriu doubled his tally for an easy 4-1 win.

That sent them into the group stages, where they’ll face Anderlecht, Krasnodar and Maribor.

Division I resumes

Latunov’s second league campaign began at home to Paks. An instantly forgettable first half was instantly forgotten as Lomako scored a debut goal then Juninho came off the bench to bag a brace that made it three goals in two games and sealed a 3-1 win. An intense opening to the season continued with a rival clash at Újpest, which also ended in a 3-1 win thanks to late goals from Lomako, which was a screamer, and Sandro Luiz.

Next up was a home game against newly promoted Dorog, who had a player sent off after five minutes and the floodgates opened. Sandro Luiz got things going, Kollár scored his first senior goal, and Honceriu made it 3-0 by half-time. They scored a fluke cross goal and Eppel got his first goal for the club in a quiet second half for a 4-1 win that sent Honvéd top. The good form continued at home to MTK, in which Honvéd again led 3-0 at half-time and Sandro Luiz stole the show with a brace in a 4-0 win, then 3-1 at Mezokovesd.

The first dropped points of the campaign came at last season’s third-place side Fehérvár, where Honvéd came within five minutes of a 1-0 win only to concede a deserved late equaliser. But they fired back against another top of the table contender Puskás Akadémia, in a game that swung on a 47th-minute penalty scored by Gazdag. Honvéd then took control with another Honerciou brace and Sandro Luiz scoring again. Another away win followed at ZTE with Honceriu scoring in the first minute then a Sandro Luiz second half brace sealing a 3-1 win, which took both strikers to 10 goals each for the season.

This excellent start sent Honvéd five points clear going into two top of the table clashes. First up were champions Ferencváros, who absolutely dominated and took the lead just before the half-hour mark, and continued to remain in charge through most of the second half. However, Latunov pushed players forward upped the intensity and Sandro Luiz nicked an equaliser out of nowhere, then Honceriu stole a totally undeserved winner!

That opened up a seven point lead at the top to surprise package Kisvárda, who visited Honvéd next. This time a strong start saw Honvéd race into a 4-0 half-time lead with a Sandro Luiz brace and goals from Honceriu and Eppel. Kisvárda pulled two back but another great result left Honvéd eight points clear!

Building on a strong start

The unbeaten streak continued with a 3-0 win at Diósygor, where Sallai scored early then the free=scoring duo of Honceriu and Sandro Luiz both scored after the break. Both strikers both scored again in a 2-0 home win over local rivals Újpest then a 4-2 win at Paks, in which Farkas scored his first league goal for the club. And that opened up a huge 12 point lead at the top!

The ridiculous winning form continued with another 4-2 away win at bottom club Dorog, in which Sandro Luiz bagged a hat-trick that began with this outrageous chip finish. The deadly strikeforce both scored again in a 2-1 win at home to Mezokovesd, which should have been far more comfortable given they had 31 shots, missed a penalty, hit the woodwork four times and had an xG of 4.95.

Honvéd headed into a month-long winter break with a trip to Fehérvár. They again racked up huge amounts of shots (28) but nicked it through a 55th-minute penalty by Gazdag. That took Honvéd to an outrageous 10 straight league wins and 15 wins from 16 played, which ensured a 12-point lead heading into 2026.

This form is well and truly down to the front two. Sandro Luiz has 18 goals at an average rating of 7.65 and Honceriu has 12 goals and 10 assists at an average rating of 7.79. Truly ridiculous! Honceriu’s form also won him the Romanian Player of the Year award, which is pretty impressive.

Europa Conference group stage

The group stage proved to be a step too far in Europe, beginning with 1-0 and 2-1 home defeats to Maribor and Anderlecht. From that point on he decided to use the second team in Europe to keep the first team fresh, and they unsurprisingly lost every game bar an impressive, hard-earned point in Maribor.

Join us next time to discover if Vladimir Latunov can lead his Honvéd side to the Hungarian championship and wrap up his fourth national title in three countries.

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