Final day of Turkish second-tier football deals pinch of euphoria, dollops of pain
Stefan Martens - ISTANBUL
DHA photo“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” goes the old Tolstoyan adage. While the Russian literary giant had precious little to say on football in Turkey’s second division, the critical portion of his aphorism was manifested all too painfully for some Turkish clubs on a day of euphoria and heartbreak in the final match day of the PTT 1. Lig on May 14.
In the happy column are Kardemir Karabükspor, which will return to the Spor Toto Super League following a one-year hiatus after securing promotion with a 2-1 victory despite appearing destined for the lottery of a playoff in its final match against Göztepe.
Heading into action one point behind Alanyaspor, which was bidding to gain promotion to the top tier for the first time in its history, Karabükspor knew its only hope was to emerge victorious and hope for a slipup by the southerners, but it suffered an early setback when Göztepe forged an early 1-0 lead at home. Karabük soon equalized in the 35th minute, but with Alanya also drawing 0-0 away to Giresunspor – itself fighting to secure a berth in the playoffs – the side from the Mediterranean remained on course for the Super League alongside the already-promoted Adanaspor.
Karabükspor could dare to dream after Murat Akın fired his side ahead in the 52nd minute. Fourteen minutes later in Giresun, however, Alanya broke a goalless draw to set itself a course for the Super League and consign Karabük to the playoffs.
But Giresun, which had started the day in a playoff position but now seemed set to fall out of the running altogether after being leapfrogged in the live standings as their closest rivals, Elazığspor and Balıkesirspor, found the net in their matches, fought back before a passionate home crowd, scoring in the 79th and 81st minutes to almost certainly rescue a season of hard work and break the hearts of Alanya.
Desperate for the automatic promotion place, however, Alanya poured forward, finding a goal in the 90th minute that was just enough to leave their Black Sea hosts crestfallen but not enough for themselves to overtake Karabük, which hung on for the 2-1 victory against Göztepe.
As the final whistle blew in Giresun, the players from both sides sunk to the ground, with those in the green and white of Giresun disconsolate at the failure to qualify for the playoffs, as those in the orange of Alanya wallowed in the misery of knowing they had fallen just short of clinching the first promotion in the club’s 68-year history.
The home side’s distress at the final whistle was possibly compounded by more drama elsewhere that gave a new meaning to the tired football cliché of “it’s the hope that kills you” for Giresun players and supporters as the club received a sensational lifeline just one minute after conceding against Alanyaspor when relegation-threatened 1461 Trabzon scored away at Balıkesirspor to equalize in their match and send the northwesterners crashing out instead of Giresun.
Cruel fate dictated otherwise for Giresun, however, as Balıkesir’s Dilaver Güçlü found a winner even later in injury time to both confirm 1461 Trabzon’s relegation and his side’s appearance in the playoffs at the expense of Giresun, whose improbable stay of execution had listed less than 60 seconds.
When all the dust settled, a dejected Alanyaspor found itself in the playoffs, where it will be joined by Adana Demirspor, Elazığspor and Balıkesirspor. Balıkesir will meet Alanya as Demirspor tussles with Elazığspor in the two-leg semifinals to be played on May 19 and 23. The winners will meet for a one-game final on May 27 for the right to join Adanaspor and Karabük in the Super League.