Canaries advance in Europa, Eagles snatch Group H lead

Having defeated group leader Lokomotiv Moskva 4-2 away, Sporting Lisbon is still in the running. If things go poorly for Besiktas in the last group match against Sporting, the Portuguese team could take away the Black Eagles’ runner-up ticket. Besiktas has nine points, Lokomotiv eight and Sporting seven, so the race is close.

Fenerbahce needed the win to cement its spot in the knockout rounds. It is moving on to the knockout stages without a doubt. The Canaries now have 12 points to Molde’s 10. Ajax hit Celtic for a 2-1 win scooting up to nine points, still within striking distance of a berth.

Canaries in

Heavy rain and AstroTurf came together to make Fenerbahce’s match against Molde in Norway a largely frustrating affair. The Yellow Canaries spent the entire first half, minus a handful of counter attacks, working hard to make something happen in front of Molde keeper Ethan Horvath’s net, but failed to finish the job.

It was the conditions that led coach Vitor Pereira to choose José Fernando as striker, because “Fernandao’s characteristics are better suited to the hard ground,” leaving Robin van Persie on the bench.

After countless attempts, Fernandao finally opened the scoring deep into the second half. The Brazilian striker plucked a curling Alper Potuk cross out of the air and tucked it into the back corner. He took the fall for the second goal, running up to contest Ethan Horvath for the ball. The two collided, but Ozan Tufan was right behind to hit the net.

“We are playing more intelligently. The match was very balanced. The team is applying pressure better now. We were successful in stopping sudden attacks,” Pereira said. “We pushed forward and took possession of the ball. In difficult conditions on a turf pitch, under wind and rain, we came away with a good show,” he added.

The Norwegian champion has already qualified for the knockout rounds and so this match was not critical. They calmly held the status quo, waiting for good opportunities, though conceding put more urgency into their play. Only after a third impossibly close attempt for the Canaries did Knut Olav Rindarøy get sent off for unsportsmanlike behavior.

Black Eagle brace

Cenk is not typically in Senol Gunes’s starting XI, but the coach fielded him in lieu of Germany striker Mario Gomez and Cenk made it worth his while. He scored first in the 35th minute and despite several other glowing opportunities, did not get the second until the 78th.

When he came onto the pitch in the 68th minute, Portugal’s Ricardo Quaresma picked up where he left off in the Eagles last domestic league match. He worked the wings and within 10 minutes had selflessly set Cenk up for the second goal. Quaresma received the ball, open at the far post, but laid it out in front of Cenk in the center to finish it off.

“Today was a match we had to win and we won. In the first half, with our opponent’s understanding of defense, we had some issues with them as a team,” Gunes said. “Cenk’s goal in the first half helped us relax. Winning is a beautiful thing,” he added.

With the brace, Besiktas broke the one-goal curse that had afflicted it since last year. It was also only the Eagles’ second win in this group stage after three 1-1 draws. Its first win was also over Skenderbeu.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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