Brave Samsun making a dramatic bid for survival
ISTANBUL-Hürriyet Daily News
Samusnspor players celebrate their winning goal against Beşiktaş during the two teams’ Spor Toto Super League match at the Fiyapı İnönü Stadium in Istanbul on April 1. AA photos
In mid-January, Samsunspor was almost locked to drop from the Spor Toto Super League. The team had collected just 13 points in 20 games – only two points more than hapless Ankaragücü, which was hardly any achievement against a club that was playing with reserve players due to a financial crisis.
Flash forward to today and Samsunspor has a chance of survival in the top-flight league. In the next 13 matches, Samsunspor collected 23 of a possible 39 points. Now, the team is three points behind Medical Park Antalyaspor and might overtake the Mediterranean team with a win next week.
Samsun won both its games over Antalya this season and has the advantage in the case of equal points, so the last team relegated to the League One will be determined in the season’s last games.
“We have won 19 points in the last nine games, but our poor performance in the first half of the season prevents us from being in a better position,” said Samsunpor coach Mesut Bakkal. “We will do our best next weekend to get what we deserve: to stay in the league.”
Samsunspor hosts Sivasspor at home next weekend, while Antalyaspor travels to Istanbul giant Fenerbahçe. During that two-and-a-half month period, Samsunspor enjoyed a remarkable boost with the addition of veteran Greek forward Theofanis Gekas to the squad.
The first-ever Greek to play in the Turkish league, Gekas lived up to his historic importance. The 31-year-old scored eight goals in 12 matches for Samsunspor, including a hat-trick over Fener on Feb. 2, Bakkal’s first game at the helm.
However, Gekas has not been helping the team’s cause in recent weeks due to an injury. He was in the stands watching as his teammates beat Beşiktaş. Either Samsunspor prevails or Antalyaspor survives; the relegation battle between the two teams will provide the only last-day drama for the league.
Apart from Samsunspor’s surprising win over Beşiktaş, the highlight of the match day 33 was the tense match between Trabzonspor and Fenerbahçe. The top two teams in last season’s championship, Trabzonspor and Fenerbahçe are usually the opposing parties in heated arguments regarding the match-fixing case.
The two teams have their officials listed as suspects in the case, which alleges more than a dozen games were manipulated last season. Trabzonspor claims the team was robbed of a title, while Fenerbahçe chairman Aziz Yıldırım, jailed pending trial, alleged in his defense that Trabzonspor should have been at the center of the case, not his team.
Sunday’s game was worthy of the tension and the game went on the line several times, thanks to shots coming off the bars repeatedly.
Probably it was a match in which neither of the two sides finished happy, but at least there was a winner. After three games of drought, which was a long time considering his trail-blazing season, Burak Yılmaz scored his 32nd league goal of the year. That helped him set a new club record for most goals scored in a season, surpassing Fatih Tekke.