Beşiktaş takes on rising Kayseri to defend top spot
AA photoTurkey’s Beşiktaş, which holds the advantage in its bid to qualify for the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals, will take on an improving Kayserispor on March 12 in a bid to maintain the point difference with its closest chaser.
“We will play an even harder game over the weekend,” Beşiktaş coach Şenol Güneş said after the Europa League round 16 first leg game against Olympiacos in Athens in the early hours of March 10.
Despite controlling possession, Beşiktaş created few serious chances in the first half, while the Greek rival asked serious questions of the Beşiktaş defenders.
Experienced Argentinian midfielder Esteban Cambiasso took advantage of the Black Eagles’ ineffectiveness with a well-placed header on 36 minutes to give the hosts a 1-0 lead heading into the break.
Beşiktaş, however, demonstrated its attacking prowess at the start of the second-half, leveling matters after 53 minutes when Vincent Aboubakar intercepted a short clearance by Olympiacos’ goalkeeper and buried it into the bottom corner of the net from just outside the box.
From that moment on, the Eagles gained more confidence and flew higher but failed to score the winner, with Anderson Talisca, Ricardo Quaresma and Cenk Tosun all missing open chances.
“Despite possessing the ball, we were not effective in the first half, but the second half was a different story. However, they are not a team to be undermined, so we must be careful until the final whistle. Therefore, we have the advantage, but it’s not over yet,” Güneş said after the game.
There was no large Beşiktaş contingent among the spectators at the game due to security measures, but around 100 fans who made it to the Karaiskakis Stadium, made their chanting heard by the Eagles on the pitch, especially at times when the 35,000 rival fans had lost their hopes.
Beşiktaş, however, was lucky that playmaker Tolgay Arslan avoided red after being booked. Güneş substituted Tolgay, who will miss the next game, in the second half with the talented Oğuzhan Özyakup.
Beşiktaş leads the league with 53 points, four points ahead of second-place Başakşehir.
The Istanbul side will host Kayseri under former Eagles star and Turkish international Sergen Yalçın, the new coach who has managed to beat Istanbul giants Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray along with a strong Bursaspor after taking the post in the second half of the season, dragging his side out of the relegation zone in the process.
No game is easy when the end of the league is approaching, Yalçın said.
“And we are trying to keep away from being relegated. We are in good shape as a team,” he said.
His side is undefeated in six games since he took over.
Just hours before the leader’s game, Başakşehir will visit Atiker Konyaspor with the aim of piling on the pressure against Beşiktaş ahead of the latter’s match.
“We will play against one of the most valuable teams in the league,” Başakşehir coach Abdullah Avcı said, noting that he wished to continue a “habit of winning.”
On March 11, third-place Galatasaray will take on Ankara’s Gençlerbirliği as Osmanlıspor, which was knocked out of the Europa League round of 32 by Olympiacos, will host Bursaspor. Gaziantepspor will play at home against Istanbul’s Kasımpaşa.
Çaykur Rizespor, which sits in the relegation zone, will host Antalyaspor, which is chasing a European spot, on March 12.
One of Antalya’s rivals for European competition next year, Trabzonspor, will visit Akhisar Belediyespor in the closing game of week on March 13.