Sneijder lifts Galatasaray to Turkish Cup triumph
The victory means Galatasaray will face bitter rival and league champion Fenerbahçe in the Turkish Super Cup, which will be played at the beginning of next season.A single goal from Wesley Sneijder helped Galatasaray overcome Eskişehirspor in the Ziraat Turkish Cup final on May 7, ending the Istanbul giant’s nine-year drought in the competition.
The Dutchman coolly shot the ball into the net in the 69th minute of the game to lead the Lions to a precious piece of silverware in an otherwise erratic season.
Speaking after the game, Sneijder said the side wanted to win the league but after failing in that quest, the team set its sights on claiming the Turkish Cup.
However, the former Ajax, Inter Milan and Real Madrid ace said the team would quickly forget the victory and start preparing for the weekend’s league meeting against Trabzonspor.
Galatasaray was left behind by champion Fenerbahçe in the Spor Toto Super League, but it is currently battling against another Istanbul rival, Beşiktaş, for the crucial runner-up spot. With Fenerbahçe still to serve the second year of its two-year UEFA ban on competing in European cups for match-fixing next year, the runner-up spot will entail direct qualification for the Champions League.
“We will start focusing on the Trabzonspor game starting from tomorrow [May 9],” he said. “It will be a more important game.”
Although the competition’s most successful side with 15 trophies, Galatasaray had failed to win the cup for eight years after a memorable 5-1 final victory over Fenerbahçe in 2005.
After being signed from Inter Milan in January 2013, Sneijder has quickly become a fan favorite, but he needed time to make his real impact. After taking his first few months at Galatasaray to adjust, he has easily been the team’s most valuable player this year, outshining fellow blockbuster signing Didier Drogba. On May 7, Sneijder scored his 15th goal of the season to accompany his eight assists in 40 games.
Some of those goals outweighed the others in terms of importance, including a strike against Juventus in December 2013, when Galatasaray scored late to advance to the Champions League round of 16 and knock the Italian titleholders out of the competition.
On May 7, Sneijder was again cool in the box, and made full use of a rare chance in a tight game. Captain Sabri Sarıoğlu acknowledged that that such games do not have a clear favorite and that Eskişehirspor, which has won the trophy just once, 43 years ago, demonstrated that.
“It was an exciting game and they played well, they really challenged us but in the end we won,” Sarıoğlu said. “We wanted this trophy so much and we needed it.”
The victory means Galatasaray will face bitter rival and league champion Fenerbahçe in the Turkish Super Cup, which will be played at the beginning of next season.
Despite being vanquished in the final, Eskişehirspor will have the consolation of qualifying for the second preliminary round of the Europa League this summer.