Beşiktaş plays Maccabi, seeks spot in next round
Beşiktaş’s Portuguese winger Ricardo Quaresma (R) is coming off a high note after scoring the winner against Trabzonspor on Nov. 28. AFP photoBeşiktaş plays against Maccabi in Tel Aviv in the Europa League tonight, hoping to guarantee a spot in the 32nd round of the competition.
The Black Eagles are second in Group E, just behind Stoke City, and can punch their ticket to the next round if they can win in Israel and third-place Dynamo Kyiv loses in England.
Beşiktaş hosted Maccabi in Istanbul on the opening day of the group Sept. 15. The home team was dominant from the start to the finish and trounced its opponent 5-1, thanks to a double by Portuguese forward Hugo Almeida, with Egemen Korkmaz, Mehmet Aurelio and Edu getting their names in the score sheet as well.
The sport of football in the game was overshadowed by then-escalated tensions between Turkey and Israel. The game at Istanbul’s İnönü Stadium came amid deepening tensions between the two countries after Israel refused to apologize for a raid on a Gaza-bound ship last year that killed nine activists, prompting Turkey to expel top Israeli diplomats, cut military ties with the country and vow to send Navy vessels to escort aid ships to Gaza in the future.
There were calls to UEFA, European football’s governing body, to reschedule the game at a neutral venue, but the Turkish government assured Maccabi of its safety, and there was no crowd trouble or hostility toward the Israeli side as some feared.
Unlike the first match, the political context of the game was not highlighted by the Turkish media, giving Beşiktaş the opportunity to focus solely on the sport.
Beşiktaş was beaten in both of its visits in the group, Stoke City and Dynamo Kyiv respectively, but bounced back with a valuable 1-0 win against the Ukrainians on Nov. 3.
Maccabi looks to be the second favorite to win the match, but it can count on Beşiktaş’s fixture filled with important matches.
Beşiktaş will complete the group with a home game against Stoke City on Dec. 14, while Dynamo Kyiv will host Maccabi.
The Maccabi match comes after two crucial league matches for Beşiktaş.
The Black Eagles played its Istanbul-based rival Galatasaray on Nov. 20 in a heated match then beat runner-up Trabzonspor 1-0 on Nov. 27 in the Turkish league.
After the Europa League match, Beşiktaş will return to league with a home match against Orduspor on Dec. 5. The game will be played in front of women and children under the age of 12 since the Turkish Football Federation handed Beşiktaş a ban due to crowd violence against Galatasaray.