Galatasaray’s derby jinx continues as Fenerbahçe defeats Lions 2-0

Galatasaray’s derby jinx continues as Fenerbahçe defeats Lions 2-0

Stefan MARTENS ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Galatasaray’s derby jinx continues as Fenerbahçe defeats Lions 2-0

Fenerbahçe's Pierre Webo celebrates his team's second goal during the Istanbul derby showdown between the Yellow Canaries and Galatasaray at Şükrü Saraçoglu Stadium. AFP photo

Worries about Y2K dominated talk in 1999, as the world wondered whether the coming millennium would mean no tomorrow due to the impending prospect of an apocalypse born of technological malfunction. The world didn’t end at the beginning of 2000, but Galatasaray’s hopes for a victory away to eternal rivals Fenerbahçe seemed to have died with the great clock changeover, as the Lions forever searched for a sequel to a December 1999 2-1 victory over the Yellow Canaries.

The two-time champions came to the Şükrü Saraçoğlu tonight looking to again break the 14-year hoodoo in Turkey’s biggest derby, but Fener made sure the streak will stretch to a decade-and-a-half after dispatching a disjointed Galatasaray side 2-0 with goals either side of half-time by Emre Belözoğlu and Cristian Baroni.

No one who has viewed Turkish television after 9 p.m. on a weekend evening can have missed it; channel after channel of men – rare is the woman involved in any such show – dissecting the night’s football. With most channels devoid of any highlights due to broadcasting restrictions, the fare is an interminable progression of hosts, ex-players and ex-coaches examining the action in the most minute of detail. This being Turkey’s football scene, however, the programming essentially entails the meticulous examination of the highs and lows of whichever of the big three – Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe or Beşiktaş – happened to be playing that night, to the de facto neglect of the rest of the country’s football sides.

Come derby day, the football talk goes into overdrive, both before and after the match, especially if the derby is Galatasaray vs. Fenerbahçe. Pregame coverage starts hours before, while news websites announce the starting elevens – as well as all the “shock” omissions – for Turkey’s version of “El Clasico” with breaking news headlines. But even if the match is susceptible to exaggerated hype amid interest that remains largely insular – Turkish league fixtures have little TV appeal beyond the country’s borders – the Galatasaray-Fenerbahçe derby sets the day’s agenda for Istanbul, if not beyond. Ordinary men and women dash down for the morning paper replete in the kit of either the Lions or the Canaries, predictions dominate casual conversation even among those with only tangential interest in the sport, while bridge traffic comes to a snarling halt ahead of kickoff.

And so it was that leaders Fenerbahçe welcomed Galatasaray, whose preparations for the important fixture could not have been worse following a 1-0 reverse to FC Copenhagen in the Champions League.

First-half penalty

Ever the big-game player, Galatasaray star Didier Drogba notified all of his intent to write his name into derby lore, giving Volkan Demirel in the Fener goal something to think about with a long free kick in just the seventh minute.

The Ivorian legend went closer just minutes later when he again unleashed a rasping shot that Volkan did well to parry. Burak Yılmaz then scuffed the rebound, only to be flagged for offside.

Gökhan Gönül found himself with a chance to open the scoring for the hosts in the 20th minute, but he failed to keep his shot down after finding space to the left of Eray İşcan, who was starting just his second league match of the season due to a toe injury to number-one Fernando Muslera.

The Yellow Canaries did find the opener just three minutes later, after Emre Belözoğlu narrowly slotted home a penalty to Eray’s left after Lions’ defender Aurelien Chedjou awkwardly handled Caner Erkin’s cross.

Seeking to rally his largely lackadaisical side, Drogba came close again in the 31st minute, flashing a hard free kick less than 50 centimeters over Volkan’s goal.

Nigerian star Emmanuel Emenike, meanwhile, replaced Dirk Kuyt for Fenerbahçe at the half after the Dutch striker suffered a muscle injury later in the first half.

With Galatasaray struggling to create chances from open play, their best opportunities to equalize came from set pieces. Selçuk İnan’s searching ball on a free kick in minute 54 created worries in the Fener defense, only for Pierre Webo to clear. At the other end, Fener looked to land the killer blow, only to frequently fall afoul of the linesman’s offside flag.

Baroni did add to the host’s advantage on 66 minutes when he tapped into an empty goal from Webo’s cross. The Cameroonian intelligently called Emenike off from pursuing the ball as the Nigerian was in an offside position, before passing across to allow the Brazilian to score his first of the season.

Galatasaray continued to struggle for an equalizer, although Fener often appeared more likely to score a third before it would concede a first.

There was fittingly time for one more major event demonstrating Galatasaray’s futility away at the Şükrü Saraçoğlu, as Volkan stretched to his left to save Felipe Melo’s weak, injury-time penalty that was awarded after Mehmet Topal handled in his own box.

Fener remains top

Fener, which has been imperious since dropping its opener away to Konyaspor, maintained its four-point lead atop the Super League over Kasımpaşa in second place; perhaps more significantly in terms of the derby atmosphere, the Canaries extended the distance between themselves and the Lions to nine points. With a third of the season now gone, Galatasaray continues to blow hot and cold, falling to sixth with the loss.

Elsewhere, Trabzonspor fell 3-2 away to Gençlerbirliği. The Black Sea Storm raced out to an early 2-0 lead, but perhaps showing the exertions from their Thursday trip to Warsaw in the Europa League, conceded three straight to return home from Ankara empty-handed. Konyaspor, meanwhile, defeated Antalyaspor 2-0 at home.