OKAN UDO – Lions earn CL proper ticket, Eagles to play in qualifiers

Lions earn CL proper ticket, Eagles to play in qualifiersGalatasaray overcame Kayseri Erciyesspor 2-1 at Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul in its last match of the 2013-14 Spor Toto Super League season to finish as runner-up ahead of BeIiktaI, which was held 1-1 by visiting Ankara side GenlerbirliIi at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium.The results mean the Lions, as Galatasaray is popularly called, have earned a direct ticket to the big-time UEFA Champions League next season, while BeIiktaI, aka the Black Eagles, will be playing in the Champions League qualifying rounds.Fenerbahe had already been declared champion after drawing 0-0 at home with Black Sea side aykur Rizespor in week 31 on April 27. But the fact of the matter is that the Yellow Canaries are banned from all European competitions next time around for involvement in match-fixing in the 2010-11 season.With the Turkish champion out of Europe, the runner-up spot gained added importance because it meant a guaranteed berth in the lucrative and prestigious Champions League. Little wonder the race for second place went down to the wire.Everything was wide open going into Saturday’s final matches of the season. BeIiktaI was third with 61 points, trailing Galatasaray by only one. The Black Eagles therefore had to win and hope the Lions would drop points in order to leapfrog the latter into second place.But things often don’t happen as planned, for it was BeIiktaI which dropped points after the draw with GenlerbirliIi and Galatasaray went home with the maximum points following its victory over Kayseri Erciyesspor.Lions cautiousIf you can’t win, at least don’t lose. And that’s exactly how the Lions started against Erciyesspor on Saturday. They missed several chances in the first half, but nevertheless made sure they left many men at the back. And it was only natural that this half ended exactly the way it started: 0-0.Galatasaray then came out firing on all cylinders in the second half in a match that was played behind closed doors. Star striker Burak YIlmaz opened the scoring for Galatasaray in the 46th minute, redirecting a pass from Dutch second striker Wesley Sneijder into an empty net.Lanky striker Umut Bulut made it 2-0 for the Lions in the 75th minute, heading home a Seluk Inan free kick past Erciyesspor goalkeeper Gkhan DeIirmenci. Erciyesspor’s consolation goal came from 31-year-old Senegal defender Kader Mangane, but it was too little, too late.“It was a positive season,” Mancini said. “We finished second, but could well have finished fourth or fifth. We played many more matches than all our opponents and so I congratulate all our players. Of course our aim was to win the championship we came close to achieving this but dropped some vital points along the way,” he noted.“We battled against BeIiktaI for second place and a place in the Champions League proper and emerged victorious on the last day of the season. We also won the [Turkish] Cup. And we can say it was not easy,” Mancini added.Eagles make do with thirdBeIiktaI, desperate for victory, did not play cautiously. The Black Eagles went up 1-0 through Portugal forward Hugo Almeida in the 36th minute and held on to their slim lead in the first half.Gteborg-born forward Mervan elik equalized for Ankara’s GenlerbirliIi in the 58th minute. Almeida then turned from hero to zero in the 78th minute when his penalty kick was saved by Genler keeper Ferhat Kaplan.To complicate matters, BeIiktaI’s Dutch-born midfielder OIuzhan zyakup was shown a direct red by referee Yunus YIldIrIm in the fourth minute of stoppage time (94th), meaning Slaven Bilic’s men finished the match with 10 men.“If we say we were successful this season, it would mean we’re happy with third place. BeIiktaI can never be happy with the second runner-up spot,” BeIiktaI’s Croatian coach Bilic said.Reigning champion Fenerbahe ended the season on a winning note on Friday, beating Kayserispor 2-0 away to put the final nail in the relegation coffin of the already doomed Anatolian team. EskiIehirspor and Konyaspor drew 1-1.The other Super League games on Saturday finished: Bursaspor 3, Gaziantepspor 1 and Rizespor 3, relegated ElazIIspor 1.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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