OKAN UDO – Galatasaray shows staying power against gutsy Mersin

Galatasaray shows staying power against gutsy MersinHamza HamzaoIluand#39s Galatasaray, aka the Lions, showed grit and determination against Mersin Idmanyurdu, coming from behind twice to beat the visiting Mediterranean side 3-2 in a thrilling encounter in week 14 of the Spor Toto Super League at Turk Telekom Arena in IiIli on Saturday evening.The result means the Lions have won their last six domestic matches — all in competitions — five of which were under their new coach, HamzaoIlu.

Galatasaray last tasted domestic defeat in week 10 of the league, when it was humiliated 3-0 at home by Trabzonspor on Nov. 22 — a result that forced the club to terminate the contract of underachieving Italian coach Cesare Prandelli.

Galatasaray went on to beat Gaziantepspor 1-0 away in week 11, under caretaker goalkeeping coach Claudio Taffarel. And the Lions, who played at tortoise pace under Prandelli, started running like cheetahs after HamzaoIlu took over in week 12.

They beat mid-table Akhisar Belediyespor 2-1 at home in week 12, defeated EskiIehirspor 4-2 in the Turkish Cup, crushed Torku Konyaspor 5-0 away in week 13, bashed fourth division Balova YaIamspor 9-1 in the Turkish Cup on Tuesday and edged Riza alImbayand#39s Mersin in a five-goal thriller at The Arena on Saturday.But the Lions had to sweat for victory over alImbayand#39s men.

It took Mersin only nine minutes to break the deadlock, with veteran attacking midfielder Guven Varol tapping the ball into the back of the net, following a pass from right by powerful Ouagadougou-born winger Prejuce Niguimbe Nakoulma to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.But Guven turned from hero to zero nine minutes later (18th), when he scored the equalizer for Galatasaray.

Mersin took the lead again in the 26th when Serbian center back Milan Mitrovic converted a penalty after Cameroon defender Aurelien Chedjou brought down Hungary forward Makro Futacs in the 18-yard box and referee FIrat AydInus made no hesitation in pointing to the spot. It was a cleverly taken penalty that sent Galatasarayand#39s Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera diving in the opposite.

And the first half ended 2-1: aantage Mersin Idmanyurdu.Mersinand#39s CalImbay was not a happy man after the match.

andldquoWhen you are playing against Galatasaray the important thing is not to lead at the beginning, but at the end. We came to win here [in Istanbul], not to play for a draw, and thatand#39s how we planned for this match.

Galatasaray is a very experienced team, so it did what we couldnand#39t. We had several clear chances but couldnand#39t convert them to increase our lead.

And if you canand#39t capitalize on those chances, then you will definitely be punished by Galatasaray,andrdquo he lamented.Lions come out fighting after breakMaster tactician HamzaoIlu made one change at the beginning of the second half, bringing in German-born winger Hamit AltIntop in place of leftie Emre olak, and it worked — the Lions began running like cheetahs and chasing every ball.

Galatasaray equalized for the second time in the 55th from the penalty spot after onrushing Mersin keeper Nihat Iahin brought down star striker Burak YIlmaz in the box. Burak defied the old football myth that says the fouled player should not take the penalty himself, coolly slotting the ball into the bottom right-hand corner to make it 2-2.

That brought Burakand#39s goal tally this season to 10.After several near misses, Umut Bulut scored in the 79th to put the game beyond reach.

The lanky striker Galatasaray had no problems whatsoever in tapping a Sabri SarIoIlu cross from the right flank into an empty net. The final score was Galatasaray 3, Mersin Idmanyurdu 2andldquoAfter a string of victories, a drop in form was expected, but not to this degree,andrdquo HamzaoIlu said, apparently referring to his teamand#39s performance in the first half.

andldquoWe did not start well. And we did not play as we ought to have done in the second half.

However, in this half we looked more determined and put on a good fight. In spite of everything, we won and earned three precious points.

Mersin is a hard nut to crack, and so I congratulate coach RIza [alImbay] and wish him and his team success in future encounters. I also congratulate my players for their fighting spirit,andrdquo he added.

For the record: Young Galatasaray defender Semih Kaya suffered a concussion in the 35th minute and was rushed to the hospital. Reports say he is fine.

In Saturdayand#39s other matches, it was: EskiIehirspor 1, Kardemir Karabukspor 1 GenlerbirliIi 5, Konyaspor 0 and Sivasspor 0, Istanbul BaIakIehir 2 On Friday, the defending champion beat Kayseri Erciyesspor 1-0 away but needed a dubious penalty converted by captain Emre BelzoIlu to do so.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman