Lions held at TT Arena, shoot themselves in foot

(Photo: Today's Zaman)

May 03, 2012, Thursday/ 11:08:00

The Lions, as Galatasaray is popularly called, failed to beat visiting Trabzonspor in week four of the Super Final at Türk Telekom Arena on Wednesday evening, thereby committing collective hara-kiri.

There was tension here, tension there and tension everywhere in the Galatasaray camp. The fans staged a march in İstanbul ahead of Wednesday's game to protest the Turkish Football Federation and President Demirören. On the field of play, strikers Johan Elmander and Necati Ateş almost came to blows

The 0-0 result means the Lions -- depending on the Beşiktaş-Fenerbahçe match that was still being played on Thursday when Today's Zaman went to press -- have all but surrendered the Super Final lead to their perpetual rival Fener.

And that would be a real tragedy for Fatih Terim's Lions, who finished first in the Spor Toto Super League at the end of the regular season with a nine-point lead over second-place Fenerbahçe. The points earned during the regular season were divided into two in the Super Final, meaning the Lions started with a five-point advantage -- which has maybe been reduced to zero now.

TT Arena jinx

The Lions have won two, drawn one and lost one in the four Super Final games they have played so far. But the interesting thing is that the two victories have been on the road, while Galatasaray has not won at its TT Arena in Şişli yet.

Terim's men opened their Super Final campaign with a 2-0 away victory over Beşiktaş on April 16, lost 2-1 at home to Fenerbahçe in week two the Sunday before last and defeated Trabzonspor 4-2 on the road on Saturday, before playing to a goal-less draw with Trabzonspor on Wednesday.

Furthermore, Trabzonspor, or the Black Sea Storm, has not lost to Galatasaray in their two meetings at the Arena this season; however, the Storm has lost both matches at home to the Lions.

Galatasaray walloped Şenol Güneş's Black Sea Storm 3-0 when the two teams met in week 15 of the Spor Toto Super League at Trabzon's Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadium on Dec. 11 and drew 1-1 at the TT Arena in week 32 on March 25. The Storm was beaten 4-2 in Trabzon on Saturday but succeeded in squeezing water out of a rock on Wednesday, so to speak, by drawing 0-0 and going home with a point.

Tension everywhere

There was tension here, tension there and tension everywhere in the Galatasaray camp. The irate fans marched in İstanbul ahead of Wednesday's game to protest the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) and President Yıldırım Demirören for referring their club to the Professional Football Discipline Committee (PFDK) over the ongoing match-fixing saga.

On the field of play, there was an altercation between strikers Johan Elmander and Necati Ateş, and the two angry players almost came to blows.

Necati missed and missed against Fenerbahçe in week two, and the Lions lost; he also missed and missed against Trabzonspor on Wednesday, and the Lions could not score, let alone win. And one cannot stop wondering whether Necati is the kind of striker Galatasaray really needs.

Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim, naturally, was a very unhappy man. “Trabzonspor is a formidable opponent,” he said. “And as the goal did not come, tempers began to flare and flare,” Terim noted, alluding to the Necati-Elmander tension.

“We really wanted it, but at times you just cannot make it happen. There are still two matches to go, and the battle is not yet lost or won,” he noted.

Storm performs better

Coach Güneş and his Storm were pilloried from all corners after the lackluster performance against Galatasaray on Saturday. But what the naysayers did not understand was that star striker Burak Yılmaz, who had surgery for a broken nose recently, was not fielded in that match and Burak is equal to half of the entire Trabzonspor team.

Burak was on the pitch for the whole duration of the match on Wednesday, and that made all the difference as the Storm matched the Lions stamina for stamina and speed for speed.

Trabzonspor was desperate because it wants to finish third and play in the UEFA Europa League next season, instead of finishing fourth and having to play in another playoff to earn a Europa berth in a complicated and enigmatic system unheard of anywhere else on the planet.

Trabzon coach Güneş has forgotten about Wednesday's match as he is already thinking ahead to Sunday's home game against Fenerbahçe.

“Right now, I want to send a message to our fans. We want our fans to come and support us, but we do not want and will not condone any unruly behavior,” said the coach, whose team played its first two home matches behind closed doors.

“We need wholehearted backing on Sunday, but we do not want any trouble,” he added.

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