A storm subdues Antep to keep Europe hopes alive

The Black sea storm, as Trabzonspor is also called, beat relegation-threatened Gaziantepspor 2-1 in week 31 of the spor Toto super League on saturday to assert its credentials as one of the “Big Four” in Turkish football.

It is worth noting that the match was played behind closed doors, which in Turkey means men are barred while women and young boys are allowed to attend for free. The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) had ordered Trabzonspor to play four home matches behind closed doors due to the unruly behavior of its fans in its week 24 game against Fenerbahce on March 3.

saturday’s result means the storm has consolidated its fourth place in the 18-team standings and has all but sealed a berth in the second-tier uEFA Europa League next season. It also means Trabzonspor still has a shot — albeit a small one — at qualifying for the uEFA Champions League depending on the performance of third-placed Galatasaray in the three remaining matches.

Hami era

Trabzonspor has shrugged off its disappointing start to the league — which resulted in former coach Mustafa Resit Akcay being given his marching orders in early February — and has picked up momentum under the tutelage of Hami Mandirali as the 2013-14 season heads towards the finish line.

Mandirali’s men have not lost since the ill-fated home match against Fenerbahce in week 24 on March 3 which was abandoned due the rowdiness of the Trabzonspor fans. The latter was eventually declared the 3-0 winner by default.

The storm rebounded to rout Roberto Carlos’ sivasspor 4-0 in week 25. It drew 0-0 at home with Kasimpasa in week 26 and was also held scoreless by sanica Boru ElaziGspor in week 27.

The storm showed flashes of its old form in week 28 by walloping visiting Ankara side GenclerbirliGi 3-0 and drew 2-2 away with Eskisehirspor in week 29. Trabzonspor then ran riot away in week 30 with a 5-0 hammering of Torku Konyaspor.

saturday’s victory, therefore, increased the storm’s unbeaten streak to seven games. And the man behind this win was no other than Brazilian forward Paulo Henrique, on loan from Belgian side Waterloo, who scored a brace to take his tally in the league this season to 12.

The writing was already on the wall after only seven minutes when Henrique towered above the Antep defense to head home a cross from the left by 21-year-old winger Yusuf ErdoGan to give the storm a 1-0 lead.

Henrique was again on target in the 43rd minute, slamming home a rebound from an Antep defender to make it 2-0 for the Black sea storm. Gaziantepspor’s consolation goal came from a header by German-born Turkey center forward Cenk Tosunin the 64th, but it was too little too late to save the southeastern side from defeat.

Antep has continued to decline following the departure of coach sergen Yalcin on March 25. It appears to be in safe territory with 32 points from 31 matches, but if it loses the three remaining matches and the teams below it win theirs, the southeasterners may be in big trouble.

“Our aim is to come out victorious, especially after obtaining good results in the last few weeks,” Hami told his players before saturday’s match. “Our target is Europe and so we cannot afford any mistakes at this point in time,” he added. And the devoted players did not let their coach down.

On Friday, GenclerbirliGi continued its upward march with a 1-0 home victory over 2009-10 champion Bursaspor at Ankara’s 19 Mayis stadium.