Free-scoring Beşiktaş is the feel-good factor of the league

Free-scoring Beşiktaş is the feel-good factor of the league

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Free-scoring Beşiktaş is the feel-good factor of the league

Beşiktaş players Mehmet Akgün, Necip Uysal and Oğuzhan Özyakup (L-R) celebrate a goal during the Black Eagles’ thrilling 5-3 Spor Toto Super League win over Medical Park Antalyaspor. DHA photo

At a time when the Turkish football scene dwells on a refereeing controversy and ever-present violence as usual, Beşiktaş proves to be one of the nicest factors in the game in Turkey.

The Black Eagles outclassed high-flying Antalyaspor 5-3 on the weekend, ending the Mediterraneans’ stunning six-week run. During the six-match streak, Antalyaspor had turned from mid-table mediocrity to a European qualification contender. However, Beşiktaş showed that some pundits could be quick to add Antalyaspor to the top chase.

Pundits were wrong about Beşiktaş, too. Back in the summer, Beşiktaş was written off from the title challenge, since a title race between Istanbul neighbors Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe was accepted almost unanimously. Frankly, pundits had some reason to leave one of three perennial title-chasers out of contention. Beşiktaş was embroiled in the worst financial crisis of its history, it had a new board, a questionable coach and a rebuilding squad. A few months into the season, they are the most exciting team to watch.

Beşiktaş spent the summer trying to offload its heavy wage bill: It was important to send a message to the team.

Controversia decision
New chairman Fikret Orman’s decision to hire Samet Aybaba as the new coach was probably the most controversial decision. Despite being one of the club’s important players in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the fact that Aybaba spent his career mostly in mediocre teams was not proving a satisfactory resume. Furthermore, Aybaba was a last resort after the club flirted with a variety of coaches, from Zico to Sven Goran Eriksson or to Ralf Rangnick.

After weeks of erratic results, including a three-match losing streak, Beşiktaş is now just three points behind leader Galatasaray in the standings. More important is that the club is the division’s most entertaining club, having scored at least three goals in the last four matches.

Hugo Almeida, who is usually criticized for his lack of a lethal touch, scored three goals against Antalyaspor. Turkish midfielders Oğuzhan Özyakup and Olcay Şahan, in their first Super League experiences, show touches of classy attacking football, apparently learned in the Netherlands and Germany, the countries where they were born and raised. Combative midfielders Necip Uysal and Veli Kavlak are not in their first seasons at the club, but even they play with a new-found appetite for the game.

At the center of it all stands Manuel Fernandes. Arguably the classiest player of the division, the Portuguese playmaker has been a revelation for Beşiktaş in the last two years, but this season, he upped his game to a new level. With his goals and assists, Fernandes proves to be a point of pride for Beşiktaş fans, who long envied their rivals’ iconic midfielders, Gheorghe Hagi of Galatasaray and Alex de Souza of Fenerbahçe, in the last two decades.

Last, but not least, the credit goes to Aybaba for creating a side that has been producing a hunger in games and allowing no distraction from the financial matters.

Long suffering from bore draws, off-the-pitch controversies and hateful statements from fans, Turkish football has been seeking a point of relief. Free-scoring Beşiktaş is providing that.