“Everything that has a beginning must have an end,” and so Fenerbahçe’s 47-match unbeaten run in the Super League at Şükrü Saracoğlu in Kadıköy had to come to an end some day.
And that day came on Monday, when the Yellow Canaries were thrashed 3-1 by Mehmet Özdilek’s Medical Park Antalyaspor -- breaking Fenerbahçe’s seemingly invincible home record. Antalyaspor also went into the record books for winning its first ever match at Şükrü Saracoğlu.
Prior to Sunday, the Yellow Canaries had not lost a single match at home in Kadıköy ever since they were beaten 3-2 by eventual champion Bursaspor in week 22 on Feb. 22, 2010. The Canaries won 38 and drew nine in the 47 matches they played within 980 days since Feb. 22, 2010.
Going into Sunday’s match, Fener was missing defenders Joseph Yobo and Egemen Korkmaz as well as midfielders Mehmet Topal, Mehmet Topuz and Portuguese Raul Jose Trindade Meireles. Nonetheless, the general consensus among the faithful Fener followers was that their team would not lose, even if it did not win, since the match was in Kadıköy.
And even the fact that the game was played “behind closed doors” -- that is, in front of women and children because adult men were banned -- did not dampen the diehard fans’ enthusiasm.
But that was mere illusion because the fleet-footed Antalyans won with style, puncturing whatever air of invincibility Aykut Kocaman’s men possessed in Kadıköy and bringing them down to earth with a bump.
“Calling for my resignation after every defeat is not something pleasant,” frustrated Fener coach Kocaman said at his post-match news conference. “We lost at home [Kadıköy] after a very long while, conceding a third goal as we were battling for the equalizer. This is one of the bitter realities of football,” he added.
Senegalese strikers shine
On a night Senegalese players stole the show, striker Lamine Diarra opened the scoring for Antalyaspor in the 41st minute. Diarra, collecting a long pass from co-striker Isaac Promise, outpaced the lead-footed Fenerbahçe defense before whacking a cracker of a shot into the back of the net.
Antalyaspor’s second goal, which came on the stroke of halftime, was almost a carbon copy of the first, and Diarra was again in the center of it all. This time the Senegalese, capitalizing on a pass by Brazilian center forward Sidney Cristiano Dos Santos, or simply Tita, outwitted Fenerbahçe defender Bekir İrtegün, before slotting the ball past hapless keeper Volkan Demirel to give the Antalyans a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Fenerbahçe increased the pressure after the break and were rewarded in the 49th, when Senegal striker Moussa Sow scored a fine solo effort to reduce the difference to 2-1. Sow, however, was unlucky not to score the equalizer in the 67th, when his powerful shot hit the near post and went out of play.
Defender Deniz Barış, a Fenerbahçe reject, punished his former team by netting the third goal for Antalya in the 80th minute after a lightning-fast counterattack.
Antalya stays at summit
And that was the end of the story. Antalyaspor’s points increased to 18 in nine matches and the small Mediterranean side is still a co-leader in the league with big-spending defending champion Galatasaray. Fener remained on 13 points but dropped from sixth to eighth.
This was Antalyaspor’s third consecutive victory, and coach Özdilek was just ecstatic. “This was a spectacular victory,” he said. “I congratulate the referees for doing a very good job and my players for their splendid performance. We had started a winning trend and hope to remain in the [title] race for as long as it takes,” he further said.