The Yellow Canaries, as Fenerbahçe is popularly called, had to win at the arena on Sunday to stay in Super Final contention, while a draw would not have been a bad result for the Lions. The Canaries defied the boisterous Galatasaray fans and prevailed over the Lions to obtain a great advantage with four games to go
And this undeniable truism was proven beyond a reasonable doubt on Sunday evening when Fenerbahçe beat avowed rival Galatasaray 2-1 away in week two of the Super Final at Türk Telekom Arena to throw the Super League championship playoffs wide open.
Sweden winger Reto Pirmin Ziegler put Fenerbahçe, aka the Yellow Canaries, up 1-0 in the 17th minute, redirecting a long pass from captain-playmaker Alex de Souza into the back of the net -- despite a desperate effort from young Galatasaray defender Semih Kaya to stop him. There were no other goals in the first half, which ended with advantage Fenerbahçe.
After the interval, the Lions threw everything they had at the Fenerbahçe defense, but keeper Volkan Demirel, the man of the match, thwarted all Galatasaray efforts and made an absolute mockery of the shots taken by its attacking force.
Until the 68th minute, that is, when midfielder Selçuk İnan beat Volkan with a well-taken free kick to give Galatasaray the equalizer. The Lions thereafter attacked from left, right and center, but their erratic forwards either shot wide or into the waiting hands of keeper Volkan.
With Galatasaray firing on all cylinders, Fener coach Aykut Kocaman gambled in the 72nd minute, replacing winger Caner Erkin with Özer Hurmacı and Alex with Miroslav Stoch. And the gamble paid off for it was Stoch who scored the equalizer for the Canaries several minutes later.
A bird in the hand…
“Half a loaf is better than no bread,” they say. But someone should tell that to Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim who, instead of being grateful and content with a draw and a five-point lead, pushed his men forward, looking for victory at all costs.
But in doing so, the Lions left gaping holes in defense and at midfield. Super-sub Stoch capitalized on one of those Galatasaray lapses in the 80th minute to lob a loose ball over Galatasaray keeper Fernando Muslera to seal the score: Galatasaray 1, Fenerbahçe 2.
“Fenerbahçe earned three vital points,” Terim said. “And I also congratulate my players. There was never a time they thought about a draw. They played to win, but the only thing they could not do was put the ball into the back of the net at close range. I can't get mad at them because they played well,” he lamented.
Terim and his men therefore have learned the hard way that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Ironically, Galatasaray beat Fenerbahçe 3-1 at TT Arena in week 14 of the regular season on Dec. 7, 2011, to leapfrog the Canaries into first place, where they've stayed at the summit ever since. Fenerbahçe defeated Galatasaray at the same venue on Sunday to bring the Lions down to earth.
Any Galatasaray-Fenerbahçe encounter, dubbed the “mother of all derbies” by the local media, is always a very tense affair. And Sunday's encounter was equally tough for the two teams.
The Yellow Canaries had to win at the arena on Sunday to stay in Super Final contention, while a draw would not have been a bad result for the Lions. The Canaries defied the boisterous Galatasaray fans and prevailed over the Lions to obtain a great advantage with four games to go.
How coach Kocaman and his Yellow Canaries won is really worthy of praise since the odds were stacked against them going into Sunday's dangerous derby. Everything was going Galatasaray's way. The Lions had a clear advantage and were playing in front of their boisterous home fans.
But the Canaries turned disadvantage into advantage and gave the Lions the blues. And Kocaman was ecstatic at his post-match news conference.
“For us, this was like a semifinal because there is still the final to play for in Kadıköy in May,” Kocaman said. “We are now fully back into the championship race, but we will have to get past our opponents Beşiktaş and Trabzonspor,” he noted.