Galatasaray's return to site of UEFA triumph ends in disappointing 1-0 reverse

Galatasaray's return to site of UEFA triumph ends in disappointing 1-0 reverse

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Galatasarays return to site of UEFA triumph ends in disappointing 1-0 reverse

Galatasaray's Burak Yilmaz (L) and FC Copenhagen's Olof Melberg vie for the ball during their Group B Champions League match at the Parken Stadium. AP photo

It was a trip down memory lane for Galatasaray as it returned to Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium for the first time since winning the UEFA Cup in 2000, but it won’t depart the Danish capital with the same fond memories in 2013 after dropping crucial points in a 1-0 loss to FC Copenhagen in the Champions League. 

The Lions – meeting their Danish namesakes for the second of two consecutive Champions League Group B fixtures – were intent on channeling the spirit of Gheorghe Hagi’s cup-winning side, which defeated Arsenal on penalties to lift Galatasaray’s only continental trophy, but the side was undone by an early strike by Daniel Braaten, as well as stout defending late on by the Danish champions. 

The visitors entered the match with two key absences, as start shot-stopper Fernando Muslera and Dutch ace Wesley Sneijder, who has been in imperious form since Fatih Terim was let go as Cim Bom bench boss last month, were both ruled out through injury. Eray İşcan donned the gloves for Galatasaray in Muslera’s absence, and while he might not have been facing the might of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, the 22-year-old was nonetheless thrown into the cauldron of Europe’s premier club competition on the back of just 100 total minutes of Super League football. 

Galatasaray began with one eye on events in Turin between Real Madrid and Juventus, but they would have been wise to focus on their own match, as Copenhagen came out immediately with the intent of proving wrong their tag as group whipping boys. In just the sixth minute, they found the lead, as Norway’s Braaten made like his Scandinavian colleague Zlatan Ibrahimovic to back-heel in following Rurik Gislason’s pass from the byline. 

It should have been two just two minutes later, as Copenhagen danger man Nicolai Jorgenson headed against Eray’s right post from an in-swinging free kick on the edge of the area. 

The hosts continued their pressure, with Jorgenson playing through Gislason in the 18th minute, only for the Icelander to doddle too long on the ball and waste his chance for a gilt-edged scoring opportunity. 

Cim Bom devoid of killer finish 

Galatasaray thought they had found an equalizer on 20 minutes following a piece of inspiration from the talismanic Didier Drogba. The Ivorian, who appears well on his way to becoming Galatasaray’s most legendary foreign player since the aforementioned Hagi – and minus constant red-card trouble to boot – cleverly crossed for Burak Yılmaz, but his header was saved on the goal line by Johan Wiland; Bruma tapped in from less than a yard away, but the 18-year-old was correctly adjudged to have been offside when Burak made contact with the ball. 

The visitors’ ever-mercurial Brazilian, Felipe Melo, nearly squared the affair with a dozen minutes to go in the half, but his header off a corner thudded off Wiland’s post. Cim Bom appeared set again for an equalizer just moments later, as Burak – who has been frequently maligned for his performance this season after his prolific output last year – showed determination in setting up a one-two with Bruma, only for the Portuguese youngster’s pass to roll agonizingly out of Burak’s reach with only the goal at the Turk’s mercy. 

The action reached a fever pitch as half-time approached, as Eray was called upon to make his most important stop of the night in denying Braaten after he got a break from the half-way line. Within seconds, Drogba found himself alone in front of Wiland, only to sky a cross well off target. 

Cim Bom continued its fruitless search for an elusive equalizer after the restart, but the team frequently seemed to be devoid of ideas as it sought to break down a competent Copenhagen defense with hopeful balls lofted into the box.

Drogba demonstrated more uncharacteristic profligacy on the hour mark, as he could only head Bruma’s smart cross wide of the post after Wiland failed to get to the ball. 

The Danes ultimately held out for the 1-0 victory, throwing the group wide open following Real Madrid’s simultaneous 2-2 draw away to Juventus. The Spanish aristocrats are all but mathematically through to the round of 16, having amassed 10 points from four fixtures. Galatasaray remains second on four points on the basis of the better head-to-record versus Copenhagen, which also has four points, while Juventus stayed bottom with three points.

Knowing that no margin for error remains, Cim Bom now faces the daunting task of attempting to find a result against Real at the Santiago Bernabeu in three weeks’ time before it faces a potentially decisive encounter at home to Juventus, who have been unlucky in failing to yet post a victory.