Başakşehir defends perch against tired Beşiktaş
ISTANBULSpor Toto Super League leader Medipol Başakşehir refused to allow Beşiktaş to overtake it atop the table in an exciting draw between the top flight’s last two unbeaten teams during a Nov. 26 match at Beşiktaş’s Vodafone Arena.
“We are sad that we missed out on the win but happy to keep the lead,” said visiting Başakşehir coach Abdullah Avcı after the game.
“We put the pressure in the first 35 minutes until [midfielder] Emre Belözoğlu went off due to an injury and created three chances,” he said, adding that Beşiktaş had not experienced such a difficult time in any of its matches this season, including a draw against rival Galatasaray and a stunning comeback against Benfica in the Champions League on Nov. 23 when it salvaged a draw after falling behind three goals.
The visitors took advantage of Beşiktaş’ fatigue from the Benfica encounter and pulled in front after 21 minutes through a classy strike from Cengiz Ünder.
Despite a number of attempts for the equalizer by the Eagles, Başakşehir went into the interval up 1-0.
After Beşiktaş center back Marcelo Guedes brought the sides on level terms with a header at the outset of the second half, Beşiktaş pushed for the winner, but Başakşehir’s defense weathered the storm to secure a point.
The visitors also managed several counterattack chances and referee Çüneyt Çakır ruled out a goal by Mahmut Temtekir for a foul on Beşiktaş’s Oğuzhan Özyakup before a perfect finish, triggering anger from the Başakşehir bench.
“We are going through a very busy schedule as the team battle on three fronts,” said Beşiktaş coach Şenol Güneş after the game, referring to the league, the Champions League and the Ziraat Turkey Cup campaign which begins this week.
“It would be nice to beat the undefeated league-leaders before at home and move to the top, but despite trying hard, our tiredness was showing throughout the game,” Güneş said.
“It had a negative impact on our focus. Even I felt tired on the sidelines.”
Beşiktaş will play against Fenerbahçe before it heads to Ukraine for a do-or-die game against Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League.
Despite the strong rivalry, the game also witnessed rare pieces of respect and fair play. Beşiktaş fans welcomed Başakşehir players with a placard reading “Welcome to your own house,” a sign of gratitude toward a team that hosted the Eagles for two years at the Fatih Terim Stadium when its legendry İnönü Stadium was being demolished and being replaced by today’s modern Vodafone Arena by the Bosphorus.
Mustafa Pektemek, a former Beşiktaş striker, received warm applause from the tribunes when he was substituted for Mehmet Badtal in the last five minutes of the game.
Başakşehir is first with 30 points from 12 games, two ahead of Beşiktaş. Galatasaray was third on 23 pending Fenerbahçe’s match against Çaykur Rizespor late on Nov. 27.