OKAN UDO – Rivals Fener, Galatasaray live to fight another day after wins

Rivals Fener, Galatasaray live to fight another day after winsDefending champion Fenerbahe and eternal rival Galatasaray won their respective matches in week 12 of the Spor Toto Super League on Saturday — but in contrasting styles — and the two teams lived to fight another day.Fenerbahe defeated newcomer and struggling BalIkesirspor 1-0 away at Ataturk Stadium through sheer luck, while a remarkably improved Galatasaray overcame visiting Akhisar Belediyespor 2-1 at Turk Telekom Arena — even though the result did not reflect the total domination by Galatasaray.

Fenerbahe won but the Yellow Canaries have to be thankful to BalIkesirspor keeper Emrullah Ialk, who conceded one of the strangest goals in Turkish football history.Fenerbaheand#39s Portugal midfielder Raul Meireles sent a very weak cross from the right-hand side toward the BalIkesirspor goal in the 40th.

Emrullah had all the time in the world to catch the ball or punch it over the bar for a corner But the 27-year-old did not do any of those, instead he blatantly slapped the ball into his own net to give Fenerbahe victory and leave his side staring sadly at relegation with only one win from 12 outings and only three points out of a possible 36.Pride comes before a fallBalIkesirspor had sent shockwaves across Turkish football in week three on Sept.

20 when it won 2-0 at home over Galatasaray, which was then under the tutelage of underachieving Italian coach Cesare Prandelli. Beating Galatasaray became suicidal for BalIkesirspor, which assumed an air of self-importance, thinking it had clinched this seasonand#39s league championship.

And the saddest thing is that it has not won a single match ever since.The Canaries were therefore expected to give BalIkesirspor, a team that lost 4-0 away to Kayseri Erciyesspor in week 11, a sound beating on Saturday.

But that was mere illusion because Ismail Kartaland#39s Fenerbahe is a far cry from the team of last season that won the championship under coach Ersun Yanal.It was indeed a dull and dreary match, played on a muddy and soggy pitch, and must have sent many TV viewers dozing on their couches.

Nevertheless, Fenerbahe coach Kartal was a happy man. andldquoOur paramount aim in BalIkesir was to earn three points,andrdquo he said.

andldquoBut there was the heavy rainfall we had not taken into account. Both teams put on a great fight, but we were in total control and gave BalIkesirspor virtually no chance at goal,andrdquo he noted.

andldquoAnd I wish BalIkesirspor new coach [Kemal zdeI] all the best.andrdquoEnigmatic rise of GalatasarayGalatasaray, also called the Lions, has transformed beyond recognition since coach Hamza HamzaoIlu, a former Galatasaray midfielder and Turkish assistant coach, took over from Prandelli barely a week ago (on Nov.

28).HamzaoIluand#39s 4-2 debut win at home over EskiIehirspor on Thursday, though Galatasaray played almost the entire second half with 10 after Brazilian defensive midfielder Felipe Melo was sent off in the 57th minute, was a sign of things to come.

The Lions, under Prandelli, apart from the opening 2-0 away victory over Bursaspor on Aug. 30, had not won by more than a one-goal margin and had not scored more than two goals in any competitive match — both in the domestic league and in Europe.

Saturdayand#39s game was therefore of utmost importance for HamzaoIlu because it was a litmus test for his coaching credentials. That this was a clash against Akhisar Belediyespor, the team HamzaoIlu helped to gain promotion from the second division to the Super League in 2011-12 and coached until he left completely for the national team this season, gave added importance to this match.

And after referee Bulent YIldIrIm blew the whistle for kickoff at 9:45 pm, it became evidently clear that Galatasaray and Akhisar Belediyespor belong to different galaxies in the universe of football. First touch, ball control, speed and stamina, incisive football brain — you name it — the Lions had everything Akhisar didnand#39t.

That the two goals by Galatasaray were scored from set pieces means HamzaoIlu must make his players relearn the art of scoring because playing well alone is not enough as goals win matches in the beautiful game — nothing else matters.Goal-machine Burak YIlmaz put the Lions ahead in the 14th minute, whacking the ball into the back of the net during a goalmouth scramble following a free kick by deadball specialist Seluk Inan.

But despite all their efforts, the Lions could not score a second in the first half.Galatasarayand#39s second goal came in the 75th from another Seluk free kick that hit the cross bar and rebounded into play.

And Burak was on target again to tap the loose ball into the back of the net. Greek striker Theofanis andldquoFanisandrdquo Gekas pulled one for Akhisar in the 87th — his 10th tally of the season — but it was too little too late.

andldquoItand#39s not possible to change so many things within a span of only one week,andrdquo HamzaoIlu said after the match. andldquoOur players have begun to make sacrifices.

Hitherto they were doing things individually now they are doing them as a team They are thinking collectively and this has made all the difference,andrdquo he added.Nevertheless, some doubters are still wondering how a team can change so dramatically within one week, and conspiracy theories are floating around.

One of the skeptics is Ahmet akar, a former referee-turned-sportscaster and columnist. andldquoI am ashamed of Burak and Seluk.

In an effort to send Prandelli packing, they sabotaged his efforts. They also did the same to Abdullah AvcI [the former Turkey coach],andrdquo he tweeted.

These are very serious accusations indeed, if we may add.Also on Saturday, a resurgent Konyaspor shut out visiting Mersin Idmanyurdu 2-0 and GenlerbirliIi won by the same score at home over Gaziantepspor in a match in which Antepand#39s Lithuanian keeper Zydrunas Karcemarskas also conceded a weird goal.

The 31-year-old miskicked a feeble back pass from near the center circle and watched in bewilderment as the ball sailed gently past his goal-line.Week 12 of the Super League concludes on Monday evening with Sivasspor entertaining Kayseri Erciyesspor at 4 Eylul Stadium.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman