Galatasaray on the brink of qualification
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Galatasaray midfielder Felipe Melo after the team’s winning goal against Manchester United. The Brazilian player was lively on the pitch and produced his best performance of the season at the Türk Telekom Arena. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜRELGalatasaray came on the brink of qualification for the knockout stages after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Manchester United in the Champions League on Nov. 20.
A Burak Yılmaz header made the difference for Galatasaray in the two teams’ Group H Champions League game.
The victory boosted Galatasaray’s hopes of reaching the knockout stage, putting the Lions in second place in the group, behind United who had already qualified after four wins in their first four matches. Burak put the Turkish champions ahead in the 53rd minute, heading into the top left corner above the head of Rafael after Felipe Melo had gone close seconds earlier and won a corner.
That was the fifth goal Burak, the top goal scorer of the Turkish league last season, in the Champions League. The 26-year-old forward has scored all five of Galatasaray’s goals in the competition.
Galatasaray looked almost certain for elimination after third match day, when the Istanbul team was held to a 1-1 draw against Cluj at home. The team had just one point in three matches then. However, back-to-back wins over CFR Cluj and Manchester United put Galatasaray in a position with a good chance of cruising through.
“Truth be told, we had to have collected more points in first three matches,” coach Fatih Terim said. “However, Galatasaray has a reflex in European matches and responds well. Today, we showed that again.”
In its final match on Dec. 5, Galatasaray, who is ahead of Cluj on goal difference, will play Braga. The Portuguese side, who lost 3-1 to Cluj, is already out of the competition on three points.
Manchester United won the group with 12 points, while Galatasaray and Cluj both have seven. The Istanbul team has an advantage over the Romanians with superior head-to-head record.
United, knowing qualification was already assured, rested a number of senior players including Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David De Gea and Robin van Persie.
There was a fantastic support from Galatasaray fans, who unveiled a large banner with a lion, the club’s symbol, reading “No mercy will be shown.”
After a cagey start, Galatasaray became more of a threat as the first half progressed, pinning the visitors back into their own half but creating few opportunities.
Striker Burak headed over the bar from a Selçuk İnan free kick in the 21st minute.
Galatasaray went close again some 10 minutes later when a strike from Hamit forced a save from Anders Lindegaard and United scrambled the ball away.
United worked hard to keep possession and neutralize any threat from Galatasaray and had chances of its own in the first half.
Galatasaray started the second half in determined fashion and an Albert Riera volley from outside the penalty area was save by Lindegaard in the 49th minute.
United stepped up a gear and sought to find a way back into the game but Galatasaray survived a late bout of pressure to secure the points. “Beating Manchester United is important,” said Galatasaray coach Terim. “We played brilliantly and unselfishly. My players played football in a way we have been expecting for a long time.
“We are very hopeful for second place,” he added. “There is no guarantee in football but we will play well at Braga who no longer have any chance.”
United manager Alex Ferguson said: “Parts of the game were good but in the area which we were worried about - set pieces - we suffered.
“Other than that I was satisfied and it was a decent performance,” Ferguson told the club website (www.manutd.com). “We had some good attacking play in the first half and at that point the only trouble they gave us was from outside the box. It was a very competitive, good game.”
United’s Darren Fletcher said the Istanbul pitch had made things difficult. “The biggest problem was that the pitch wasn’t good at all,” the midfielder told Sky television. “It was difficult to play one-twos.”