Beşiktaş inches toward title with home win
ISTANBULDefending champion Beşiktaş took another step to retaining its Turkish Super League title, moving five points clear at the top of the league with an April 2 win over Ankara’s Gençlerbirliği at home.
The visiting side from Ankara started the game by pressing Beşiktaş’s defenders and midfielders high up the pitch.
Coach Ümit Özat also forced a change in the 34th minute, when Uğur Çiftçi’s strong shot from close range blasted against the head of Beşiktaş goalkeeper Fabricio Agosto Ramírez. Fabri, as he is known, had to be replaced by substitute Tolga Zengin.
Beşiktaş had to wait until injury time in the first half to break the deadlock, with Oğuzhan Özyakup neatly converting Ryan Babel’s pass.
At the start of the second half, Anderson Talisca made it 2-0 by curling home a free-kick, and Babel wrapped up a comfortable 3-0 win with a goal in the 86th minute.
Beşiktaş coach Şenol Güneş admitted that his team was slow in the first half and took a while to get into its stride.
“When we changed this in the second half, we created many changes,” Güneş said.
The win was particularly valuable in a week when its closest follower Medipol Başakşehir suffered a 2-1 away defeat against Akhisar Belediyespor on April 1.
Beşiktaş will next face Trabzonspor, the rising star of the second half of the season, while the season’s surprise package Başakşehir faces a crunch match against third-placed Galatasaray.
Beşiktaş’s relatively comfortable position in the league may give it the breathing space to focus on its Europa League campaign ahead of the first leg of its quarter-final against Olympic Lyon in France on April 13.
“Right now, the favorite is Lyon, but I think that is an advantage for us. We are not going to change the way we play: We are an attacking side. I don’t think there will be pressure on the players. On the contrary, I think they will be even more excited about this game,” Güneş told UEFA’s official website.
“Should we get past them, our belief will increase. We have to play the best football we can. I say ‘we have to’ because we have to prepare with this in mind. If that is good enough to knock Lyon out, we’ll be even happier,” he added.