Eagles must beat Akhisar away as Lions pull ahead with Mersin win

Galatasaray’s narrow 1-0 away over Mersin idman Yurdu in week 31 of the Spor Toto Super League was enough to keep it in the leadership position for at least another week, regardless of how its rivals fare, and that fact should have Beiiktai scrambling to earn full points in Thursday’s match at Akhisar Belediye Genclik ve Spor.

The Lions, as Galatasaray is affectionately known, pulled ahead early and maintained the status quo for the rest of the Mersin match. In the 16th minute, midfielder Emre colak slipped a ball to Yasin Oztekin and watched as the German-born midfielder bolted for the goal. Yasin faked out former Galatasaray defender Servet cetin and shot at a wide angle, hitting the side of the net over Mersin keeper Muammer Yildirim’s outstretched hand.

Galatasaray had the advantage it needed. “It was a hard match. Mersin put up the fight we expected,” coach Hamza Hamzaoilu said. “After our early goal we played with control. I think we were successful in that way, but we did give up too many shots. Muslera made critical saves,” he added.

But it indeed turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory for the Lions, as the Uruguay star keeper was booked for time wasting and therefore will miss the weekend’s crucial home clash against Ankara’s Genclerbirliii due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

Burkina Faso’s dual-purpose forward and midfielder Preacutejuce Niguimbe Nakoulma led the attack for Mersin. In the first few minutes the winger had already made Fernando Muslera work with a grounded shot to the near post, but the Uruguay keeper denied him. He also blocked several shots from Bolivian right winger Ricardo Pedriel. Midfielder Oktay Delibalta and second-half substitute Tita were also on the prowl looking for an equalizer, but it never came.

The Lions’ Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder took a free kick, but Yildirim repelled it. Sneijder skipped more balls just wide and Burak Yilmaz had some near misses as well, but failed to bring the score above 1-0.

Slim chance for Eagles

The win follows another 1-0 win against Torku Konyaspor last Friday. The Lions are just barely earning their points with slim wins, but they have put a small cushion of two matches between themselves and the Black Eagles of Beiiktai. The Eagles failed to register a win over troubled Gaziantepspor last Friday, which made them forfeit the league lead.

The matches are scheduled in quick succession this week because the Spor Toto Super League had games to make up. The league was postponed for a week following an attack on Fenerbahce’s bus that left the driver injured. After Thursday, there will be just three matches left for each team.

The win puts Galatasaray at 70 points, while Beiiktai is in third with 65. If the Black Eagles, who led the standings for much of the year, want any chance of winning, they must first defeat Akhisar on Thursday evening and then hope the Lions and second-placed Fenerbahce drop points.

Slaven Bilic’s men are uncharacteristically healthy, so that should give the team confidence going into the Akhisar encounter. Most players besides keeper Tolga Zengin are in training, in contrast to the lengthy injury list earlier in the season.

The healthy Eagles should not have dropped points against Antep with a 1-1 draw last weekend. They similarly should not have trouble overcoming Akhisar, but nothing is certain until the game is played.

“Nothing is lost,” Czech Republic defender Tomas Sivok said after the draw. “We want to win the remaining matches and finish at the top,” he added. Indeed, even with just four games left, Beiiktai cannot give up hope of the championship.

In other Tuesday matches, Istanbul Baiakiehir defeated Sivasspor 2-1, Torku Konyaspor defeated Genclerbirliii 1-0, Balikesir defeated Kasimpaia 3-2 and Kardemir Karabukspor-Eskiiehirspor ended in a 2-2 draw.