Karabük, Trabzon shine on good European night for Turkish teams
Karabük's defender Erkan Kaş celebrates with Congolese forward Dominick Kumbela after the latter's goal against Saint Etienne at Necmettin Şeyhoğlu Stadium on Aug. 21. AFP Photo / Bülent KılıçKardemir Karabükspor and Trabzonspor cruised to victories on a good night for Turkish clubs in the UEFA Europa League playoffs on Aug. 21.
Karabükspor managed a slender, one-goal victory over French opponents Saint-Etienne 1-0 at home, while Trabzonspor beat Russia’s Rostov 2-0 in the first leg of the playoffs in a bid to advance to the group stages in the second-tier European club competition.
The victory was somewhat expected for Trabzonspor, which has lured many talented players during the transfer window, but Karabükspor’s victory was a surprising one.
The Blue Flame was inserted into the Europa League qualifiers along with eighth-placed Bursaspor only after fifth-placed Sivasspor and Turkish Cup runner-up Eskişehirspor were barred from the competition due to their alleged involvement in a match-fixing scandal.
Despite being a late addition, Karabükspor has made the most of its chances, knocking out the comparative giants of Rosenborg of Norway on the away goals’ rule before winning its first-ever European match against its French opponents.
After being handed arguably the toughest opponent in the tie, many people had written Karabükspor off, but the team, hailing from northern Turkey, played a solid game and beat Saint-Etienne by a sole goal.
Congolese forward Domi Kumbela got the solitary goal in the 60th minute with a vicious drive that clipped the post on the way in. Karabükspor will advance to the Europa League group stages with a win, draw or even one-goal loss – provided it scores – in France next week.
Coach Tolunay Kafkas praised his players for executing his tactics perfectly on the pitch.
“Our opponents are really strong, both on a physical and tactical level,” Kafkas said. “My players executed very well on the pitch and we controlled most of the game.”
However, the former Trabzonspor and Kayserispor coach admitted that it would not be an easy task to advance in France. “I always want to be a realist,” he said. “Our job will be really tough in the return leg.”
Malian midfielder Samba Sow also said: “We will play under huge fan pressure in France. But we want to protect our advantage and advance.”
Cardozo scores on debut
Elsewhere, blockbuster signing Oscar Cardozo made his Trabzonspor debut with a classy strike during his team’s 2-0 win over Rostov.
Algerian defender Carl Medjani tapped in the opener, also scoring on his debut on 37 minutes, despite appearing to be in an offside position.
Cardozo doubled the lead in the 73rd minute when he intercepted the ball outside the penalty area and chipped the ball over Rostov’s Croatian goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa.
Cardozo and Medjani, along with former AC Milan winger Kevin Constant and Algerian defender Essaid Belkalem, are among the top signings for Trabzonspor, which was the most active Turkish club during the transfer window.
The club made several signings following coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s demand that he needed at least 10 players following a defeat to Germany’s FC Cologne in a friendly game.