ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
As one-third of the Spor Toto Super League campaign is wrapped up, the assumed Galatasaray-Fenerbahçe domination is nowhere to be seen in the table. The standings strike as highly tight, mainly resulting from the growing number of draws
Galatasaray and Medical Park Antalyaspor are occupying the top two spots of the Spor Toto Super League.
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At the start of the Spor Toto Super League season, most pundits presumed there would be an abyss between the duo of Galatasaray
and the other teams. With one-third of the campaign wrapped up, they have been proven wrong.
Defending champion Galatasaray
is still leading, with Fenerbahçe
barely making into third this week. Between them stands Antalyaspor, living proof that a team with a good run can make it all the way up.
The Mediterraneans jumped up the standings with five consecutive victories, climbing from 12th to as high as second. Just six points separate fourth and 15th place, making today’s relegation-battler a potential European qualification contender with just a streak of two victories, or vice versa with a run of defeats.
The tightly knit nature of the standings comes from a growing number of games ending in draws. This year 31 of 99 matches played have ended in draws, one more than this time last year. The number of 31 draws is the highest figure of this decade bar one season, the 2006-2007 campaign, when 34 draws occurred after 11 rounds of play.
Perhaps this points to the fact that there are fewer dominant teams than in recent years. Truth be told, after Fenerbahçe’s 2004 and 2005 titles, there have been no back-to-back winners of the Super League. The Istanbul trio of Galatasaray, Beşiktaş
and Fenerbahçe, named “the big three” of Turkish football, winners of 49 of 56 titles between them, are less dominant. Still, they have tended to end up winning the titles, except the 2010 glory of Bursaspor, but more and more “Anatolian teams” are entering the race. Apart from Bursa, Gençlerbirliği, Trabzonspor, Sivasspor and Gaziantepspor have also been involved in the title race.
But apart from the end of the Istanbul domination, more and more coaches are wary of losing and will settle for draws.
Recently, Rıdvan Dilmen, a former football great and arguably Turkey’s most popular pundit, complained about the lack of attack-minded teams.
“All the coaches are playing with two defensive midfielders in front of their back fours, with that 4-2-3-1 formation,” he complained, before praising Antalyaspor coach Mehmet Özdilek’s refusal to join the bandwagon. “Antalya is successful because they are playing with forwards, searching for goals.”
Dilmen has a point: Antalya, with 20 goals scored and 13 goals conceded, is a lively and entertaining team to watch. On the other side of this paradigm stands Trabzon, which has shipped just eight goals and scored 11. The team has not profited from this infertility and is sitting in the ninth spot.
Similar things could be said for Mersin İdman Yurdu. A tough team to beat, Mersin did not back down against Galatasaray
when the defending champion was visiting last weekend. The game ended 1-1, Mersin’s sixth draw. The team has suffered four defeats in 11 matches, just one more than fellow southerners Antalyaspor. What made the difference is that there is just one victory in Mersin’s account.
Mersin is sitting at 17th.
Playing for draws does not get the teams any higher in the standings, so perhaps they should increasingly play to get all those three points in the second third of the season.