Lions can also have 9 lives: Galatasaray Lions subdue Sivas with 9 men at Arena

Galatasaray winger Engin (L) walks off the pitch after seeing red from referee Bülent Yıldırım in the 81st minute in week 12 of Spor Toto Super League at Türk Telekom Arena in İstanbul. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

November 27, 2011, Sunday/ 14:01:00

“A cat has nine lives,” they say. But lions also sometimes have nine lives as Galatasaray, known as the Lions, overcame visiting Sivasspor 2-1 in week 12 of the Spor Toto Super League at the Türk Telekom Arena on Saturday evening.

This was the second time the Galatasaray Lions have played with nine men at their Türk Telekom Arena in recent weeks. The first was in week eight against Antep, and on Saturday referee Bülent Yıldırım sent off two Galatasaray players, but his not applying the rules earlier on in the game may have contributed to the unsportsmanlike attitude of the Galatasaray players

After leader and defending champion Fenerbahçe dropped two precious points in Ankara after a goalless draw with gutsy Gençlerbirliği on Friday, it was incumbent on the Lions to beat Sivas at home the following day.

Moreover, the Lions were winless in two straight matches prior to Saturday -- drawing 0-0 at home with Mersin İdman Yurdu in week 10 and by the same score with Beşiktaş in week 11 -- thereby garnering only two points out of a possible six. This also added to make a win on Saturday imperative for Fatih Terim's men.

With victory the only thing on their minds, Galatasaray started offensively and took the game to Sivasspor after the referee blew the whistle for kickoff at 7 p.m.

Coach Terim finally decided to start with injury-prone Czech Republic striker Milan Baros in the first XI for the first time in four weeks. This made all the difference as Baros paired up with Sweden forward Johan Erik Calvin Elmander upfront to torment the Sivas defense -- especially in the first half.

And the Lions were rewarded in the first minute of added time (45+1) when winger Engin Baytar, the hero who later became villain, reconnected a Hakan Balta cross past Serbia-born Canada keeper Milan Borjan into the back of the net. Galatasaray, therefore, led 1-0 as both teams went to the dressing room.

After the interval the Lions upped the tempo and were awarded the penalty in the 59th when Borjan brought down goal-bound Baros in the box. The FIFA and UEFA rulebooks stipulate a red card for last-man foul.

Television replays showed Baros was the last man, but referee Bülent Yıldırım showed the Sivasspor keeper yellow. That makes it even more comical because he ought to have shown Borjan red or Baros yellow for “diving.”

Erzincan-born wingback Erman Kılıç reduced the tally to 2-1 for Sivas in the 71st, scoring from a very narrow and difficult angle.

Ref Yıldırım got it all wrong

One bad decision begets another. Ref Yıldırım's wrong decision would later return to haunt him and force him to reduce Galatasaray to nine men because he was not bold enough to dismiss Sivas keeper Borjan earlier on.

Engin was red-carded in the 81st for head-butting Borjan. If the Serbian-Canadian keeper had earlier been sent off, in the 59th, he would have not been on the pitch in the 81st minute to receive a head butt.

Elmander also got his marching orders in the 89th for stomping on the ankle of Sivas-born Sivasspor left back Hayrettin Yerlikaya. If Engin had not been sent off, the Galatasaray players would not have been so tense, resulting in Elmander going for Hayrettin's ankle. “A stitch in time saves nine,” this is something Mr. Yıldırım has to learn by heart.

In a nutshell, there should have been no Borjan to be head-butted and maybe Galatasaray should have a very easy game and there would have been no need for ankle stomping by Elmander if the referee had acted without fear or favor in the 59th minute.

No room for gladiators in football

Not that anyone condones the unsportsmanlike behavior of the two Galatasaray “gladiators.” Football is a gentleman's game, not something for brutes and loonies.

Head-butting and ankle stomping have no place in the beautiful game. Engin, declared “persona non grata” by Trabzonspor, should be ashamed of himself for leaving Galatasaray -- the team that came to his rescue by signing him -- with 10 men. And as NTV football analyst Rıdvan Dilmen put it, “This was the Engin dragged from the mud,” after being rejected by Trabzon. This man they call Engin deserves harsh punishment from the Galatasaray club and from the Professional Football Disciplinary Committee (PFDK) for this atrocious behavior.

Elmander's action may have been momentary, but with his team already reduced to 10 men he ought to have been more careful if he is a professional football player.

The interesting thing is that all this should not have happened at Galatasaray if Terim was the old no-nonsense energetic “Emperor” Terim. Has he become too tolerant with age, or is the old “Emperor” gone for good? Only Terim can answer these questions.

“Engin may have seen red and I consider his action irrational, but I do not consider him an irresponsible player,” Terim said. “And Elmander also is not irresponsible. I will have to talk to them one at a time in private,” he added.

He should have done so sooner rather than later because all is not well with Galatasaray. The Lions also played with nine men against Gaziantepspor, also at the Arena in week eight, even though Abdullah Yılmaz was the epitome of horrendous refereeing in that match.

Galatasaray will be depleted in its away match against Gençlerbirliği in Ankara this weekend because Engin and Elmander face automatic suspension. Head-butting is a serious offense in football, and so Engin could be suspended for two up to matches, meaning he may miss the “mother of all derbies” against Fenerbahçe next weekend.

Adding salt to injury, veteran Czech Republic stopper Tomas Ujfalusi was booked on Saturday and will be absent in Ankara due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

Rıza rues missed chances

For his part, Sivas coach Rıza Çalımbay rued the missed chances. “If only we could have capitalized on the chances that came our way,” he lamented.

But if I may add, there is no need weeping like the mystical Niobe if you can't beat nine men. And so Galatasaray has won all its home matches against Sivasspor since the 2005-06 season.

In Saturday's other matches Samusunspor beat visiting Medical Park Antalyaspor 1-0 and Mersin İdman Yurdu overcame Orduspor away by the same score.

Week 12 concludes on Monday evening with Black Sea side Kardemir Karabükspor hosting Bursaspor.

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