ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Galatasaray fails to convert its domination to goals as Fenerbahçe survives the battle at the Türk Telekom Arena in one of the most lopsided matches in derby folklore. Fenerbahçe is two points behind Galatasaray and now back into the race
Galatasaray forward Necati Ateş looks dejected after missing a clear chance against Fenerbahçe.
Çetin Cem Yılmaz
Fenerbahçe won 2-1 against Galatasaray
in yesterday’s Spor Toto Super League playoffs, but the defeat might be a bigger trauma for the home team. On April 22, Galatasaray
lost a game it had largely dominated, just as it saw its commanding league lead cut to just two points.
Galatasaray held a five-point league lead over Fenerbahçe
coming into the game – an advantage which had been halved from their original nine points, in accordance with the playoff rule – and knew that even a draw would be enough for the team to remain beyond touching distance.
However, with a goal conceded early in the first half – the first-ever league goal by Swiss left back Reto Ziegler – Galatasaray
found itself trying to equalize the score for much of the match.
Galatasaray had many chances to score throughout, but forward Necati Ateş and wingers Engin Baytar and Emre Çolak were largely wasteful. As nervous as the forwards looked in front of the opposition goal, Fenerbahçe
goalkeeper Volkan Demirel’s confident performance was a major factor as well.
Demirel’s performance was one for the ages. Blocking every single shot aside from İnan’s scorching free kick in the 68th minute.
For 12 minutes after the equalizer the Türk Telekom Arena had the atmosphere of a carnival. Home team fans were chanting, Galatasaray
deliriously went on the attack for the winning goal, while Fenerbahçe
did very little to improve their possession, which went as low as 38 percent during some periods of the game. Slipping through
That was the moment when the game slipped through Galatasaray’s hands – only the home team was not aware of it. While Galatasaray
was chasing the second goal, hoping to kill off the game as well as the championship, a shocking loss of defensive concentration gave space to Slovakian attacker Miroslav Stoch in the 80th minute.
Statistically speaking, this was a game Galatasaray
could have, or even should have, won. The Lions had 22 goal attempts and 29 shots, more than four times the number their rivals had in those same departments. However, after the equalizer Galatasaray
fell victim to its desire to beat their archrival.
Coach Fatih Terim, always known for his do-or-die attitude, has made it clear several times in his career that he is not one to play for draws and did not settle for finishing the game on 1-1.
After the equalizing goal, he could have replaced Albert Riera with one of his wingers, Engin or Emre maybe, or have taken Necati off the field to add another midfielder in order to turn the remaining 20 minutes into a dull play. Instead, he chose Milan Baros to replace Necati, trying to continue pressuring Fenerbahçe. Even though his team found chances “every 30 seconds,” as Terim said it afterwards, a heroic performance by Demirel, or a ridiculously low conversion rate by Galatasaray
attackers as it could be described, gave Fenerbahçe
a chance to cling onto the title race.
Upsets like this are not unheard of in derby folklore. A high-flying Galatasaray
side lost a similarly lopsided derby 1-0, remembered for the Samuel Johnson free-kick, about a month before winning the UEFA
Cup in 2000. Whether Galatasaray
can this time overcome the psychological blow of losing a key game at its home ground and wasting its advantage or not remains to be seen.
One thing is clear: the Fenerbahçe
game on May 13, 2012, will be truly worthy of a grand finale.