High-flying Antalyaspor looks to carry big form to New Year
Antalyaspor players celebrate after a goal by Senegalese forward Lamine Diarra (C) in a Spor Toto Super League game. Diarra, with seven goals, has been instrumental in Antalyaspor’s good run.Medical Park Antalyaspor, the biggest surprise package in the first part of the Spor Toto Super League season, has a chance to draw level with Galatasaray at top of the standings when it plays Akhisar tonight.
The Mediterraneans finished the year three points behind Galatasaray with a game in hand and tonight has a chance to level points with the top. The game, which should actually have been played last month, was postponed due to torrential rain.
A win over Akhisar, which currently sits bottom of the standings, looks highly possible for Antalyaspor, who may therefore be able to continue their stunning run.
Considering its modest budget and pre-season expectations, Antalya has been the league’s most impressive outfit during the first half of the season.
After suffering four defeats in the first five matches of its campaign, Antalyaspor went on a stunning run, winning seven matches and getting three draws in the following 11 games.
Coach Mehmet Özdilek is confident that they will be able to continue its run in the new year.
“At the end of the first half of the season I gave five days off to the team, but then did double training when they returned,” Özdilek told Doğan News Agency. “Such a high tempo was needed to reach our amazing performances again … My players are aware that they need to make sacrifices and their utmost efforts to maintain the high level of success. It will not be easy to keep it high in both competitions.”
Apart from chasing the top spots in the league, Antalyaspor is also in the last eight of the Ziraat Turkish Cup, where it will meet Trabzonspor over the weekend.
Antalyaspor has so far managed to strike a good balance of attacking football and not allowing many goals. With 28 goals scored, the Mediterranean side trails Beşiktaş (38 goals), Galatasaray (34) and Eskişehirspor (32) in attacking figures. On the opposite end of the goal statistics, Antalyaspor has allowed 21 goals, having a better record than 10 teams in the division.
Pundit Metin Tekin, a former Beşiktaş teammate of Özdilek, called the Antalyaspor manager “the best coach of the first part of the season,” saying he had “done the best he could with the squad he has.”
Recently, Rıdvan Dilmen, a former Turkish football great and arguably the country’s most popular pundit, praised Antalyaspor in a division full of defensive-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.”
Senegalese striker Lamine Diarra is leading the team with seven goals, while Ömer Şişmanoğlu’s five goals, Isaac Promise’s four and Ismail Aissati’s three goals also contributed to the Mediterraneans’ cause. Antalyaspor will hope to make full use of this variety of options in the second part of the season.