Galatasaray named winter champs with record of lowest points

Galatasaray named winter champs with record of lowest points

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Galatasaray named winter champs with record of lowest points

Galatasaray ended the first part of the season on top while Antalyaspor (inset) has performed above expectations. DHA photo

Galatasaray finished the year on top of the Spor Toto Super League thanks to a draw at Trabzonspor on Dec. 23, but the winter champion tag came with an undesired record for the Istanbul giants. The Lions had 33 points halfway through the Super League campaign, gathering the least number of points for a leader at this stage of the season and setting a record low for the 19 seasons that the Super League has been played with 18 teams.

Galatasaray collected 33 points through nine wins and six draws out of 17 games.

The previous low was 37 points, which had been reached four times in the previous five years.

Sivasspor, both in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons, Fenerbahçe in the 2009-2010 campaign and Galatasaray last year, had 37 points halfway through the season.

No worries

Despite the low point record, Galatasaray did not have a reason to worry on Dec. 23. Its Trabzonspor visit was a chance to keep the team at a comfortable five-point distance from its nearest trailer, Beşiktaş, but the team failed to capitalize on its few chances in a match resulting in a draw.

Earlier in the weekend, Beşiktaş won its Kayserispor game 3-1, but Fenerbahçe’s 3-1 defeat over Kardemir Karabükspor gave Galatasaray a chance to open a gap on top of the league.

“Both teams played to win but we could not make it. At the end it was a draw for two big teams on the final day of the first part of the season,” said Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim. “I am happy that we finished as leaders, no matter what. It is not easy playing against Trabzonspor at this stadium.

“I am sorry we did not win, but I am happy we did not lose,” Terim added.

Galatasaray completes the first part of the season with 33 points, three ahead of Beşiktaş and Medical Park Antalyaspor, who still has a game in hand. The Mediterraneans’ game against Akhisar was abandoned earlier this month due to heavy rains, and they have a chance to match Galatasaray with a win in the game rescheduled to Jan. 9, 2013. However, Galatasaray has an eight-goal advantage over Antalyaspor in the goal difference, meaning that it will probably remain at the top starting next term.

As the pacesetter won the fewest points in the last two decades, the current Super League campaign has the tightest standings in recent memory. Fouth Fenerbahçe has 27 points, while Istanbul BB, sitting in the 12th spot, has 21 points. With nine teams separated by just two matches worth of points, the mid-table teams have a chance to jump spots with just a winning streak.

Kardemir Karabükspor is a vivid example of this fact. After a 10th match day, the western Black Sea outfit was in the relegation zone sitting 16th with just nine points.

Antalya surprise

However, after five wins in the following seven weeks, including flashy 3-1 victories over Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe, Karabükspor found a lifeline and jumped to the mid-table, finishing the half-season in a comfortable eighth spot.

Even though the perennial big three of Turkish football, Galatasaray, Beşiktaş and Fenerbahçe, are sitting in the top four, there is no clear domination of Istanbul giants, as many people had predicted.
Sustaining a high level of form through the campaign, Antalyaspor looks to have a decent chance of pulling an upset and finishing in the top three.

What separates the Mediterraneans from most of the other clubs is their attacking mentality at a time when more and more coaches are wary of losing and will settle for draws.

Recently, Rıdvan Dilmen, a former football great and arguably Turkey’s most popular pundit, complained about the lack of attack-minded teams.

“All the coaches are playing with two defensive midfielders in front of their back fours, with that 4-2-3-1 formation,” he complained, before praising Antalyaspor coach Mehmet Özdilek’s refusal to join the bandwagon. “Antalya is successful because they are playing with forwards, searching for goals.”