High-flying Antalyaspor continues winning run

High-flying Antalyaspor continues winning run

High-flying Antalyaspor continues winning run

Antalyaspor players celebrate rallying to beat Trabzonspor 2-1, giving the red-hot team its fifth consecutive victory in the Spor Toto Super League. DHA photo

Mehmet “Şifo” Özdilek and his attack-minded Antalyaspor maintained their Spor Toto Super League-high winning streak with a dramatic win.

Two goals in the last six minutes lifted the Mediterranean side to a comeback 2-1 win over Trabzonspor on Nov. 5, meaning the team went back level on points with league leader Galatasaray. Along with the defending champion, Antalyaspor has 21 points and now holds a sizeable advantage of four points over the closest successor, third-place Eskişehirspor.

It is still too early to call in the season with just 10 weeks gone in the 34-round Super League, but Antalyaspor still has reasons to be hopeful about its season.

“Trabzonspor has the league’s best defense. Turning the score around and winning against them is not easy at all,” coach Özdilek said after his team’s comeback win. “We were patient all the time but we never took a step back. We scored two goals and won deservedly.”

Truth be told, Antalyaspor did not make the best of starts to the season. After five matches, the team’s scorecard read just two wins and three defeats, putting them in 12th. More precisely, Özdilek was called to resign Sept. 15, after his team suffered a hard-to-swallow four-goal defeat at home to Galatasaray. After four years of struggle and ultimate survival in the top-flight, Özdilek’s days at Antalyaspor finally seemed to be numbered.

Dramatic turnaround

However, Özdilek’s attack-minded mentality finally paid off in the sixth round. Two pairs by Uğur İnceman and Ömer Şişmanoğlu gave Antalyaspor a much-needed boost. The goal spree continued and has given the team a league-high five-match winning streak.

This season, Antalyaspor, whose sole top-level achievement is being a cup finalist in 2000, can make history. If it can, it will be thanks to Özdilek, who was given the nickname "Şifo" in reference to Belgian great Enzo Scifo during his playing days. For a former Beşiktaş legend whose coaching career was doomed by a post-game fracas in the 2006 World Cup qualification playoff against Switzerland as Turkey's assistant manager, this season is about paying one’s dues.

Now, Antalya has a tough run of fixtures featuring Kasımpaşa, Beşiktaş and Bursaspor in the next three weeks. If the team can sustain its good run, the southern team will have reason to be even more optimistic. But for now, Özdilek’s cautious statement of “We have not achieved anything yet” is more likely to continue echoing through the Mardan Stadium.