No football match, except by default, is ever won before it's played. And so the concept of “favorite,” especially when an İstanbul derby is at issue, is nothing but mere illusion.
And Beşiktaş, also called the Black Eagles, proved this truth beyond a reasonable doubt in week four of the Super League on Thursday evening, when they outplayed, outwitted and beat Fenerbahçe 1-0 in a thrilling encounter at Fiyapı İnönü Stadium.
For Beşiktaş coach Tayfur Havutçu, Thursday's victory may have helped secure his job next season. Had his Eagles lost four in a row, he could have been a goner at the end of the Super Final championship playoffs next weekend.
“We also played well in the first three matches, but failed to obtain the desired results,” he said. “But today [Thursday] we have earned three points. There are two matches left, and we will put on a struggle worthy of Beşiktaş,” he noted.
“This victory was important, and our fans, management and club needed it. At the end of the day we will all sit down and make our evaluations because this team can only get better,” he underlined.
Fenerbahçe, or the Yellow Canaries, went into this match as the “odds-on favorite” on paper, having won in all three previous outings. They beat Trabzonspor 2-0 away in the opener, stunned leader Galatasaray 2-1 away in week two and defeated Beşiktaş by the same score in week three last Sunday.
The Yellow Canaries therefore came to İnönü on Thursday, aiming to make it four wins in as many Super Final matches and take over the lead after Galatasaray dropped points in a 0-0 home draw with Trabzonspor the day before. But this is football, where the counting of the chickens before they hatch may be tantamount to spring madness.
Fenerbahçe, the more desperate side, started the game more aggressively. But it was not long before the Black Eagles took over the initiative. And with the Beşiktaş Portuguese battalion -- comprising playmaker Ricardo Quaresma, winger Simao Sabrosa, striker Hugo Almeida and all-rounder Manuel Fernandes -- stamping their authority on the game, it was clearly evident that it was not going to be an easy evening for the Yellow Canaries.
“Hard work is always rewarded,” they say, and the rampaging Black Eagles were rewarded in the 45th minute, when Almeida headed home a cross from compatriot Quaresma to give the home side a 1-0 lead just before halftime.
After the break, the upbeat Beşiktaş maintained unequivocal confidence. And as the Yellow Canaries pushed men forward, they left gaping holes in defense and midfield, but the Beşiktaş attackers, Almeida in particular, missed too many scoring chances.
The victory, though by the slightest of margins, was still more than enough to give the Eagles their first Super Final win and also hand the Yellow Canaries their first defeat.
Fener coach Aykut Kocaman started with keeper Volkan Demirel, who suffered a bruised knee in the match against Beşiktaş last Sunday, and also with Brazilian captain playmaker Alex de Souza, who has not fully recovered from his injury.
And everyone is doubting the wisdom behind Kocaman fielding Alex for the entire duration of the game. In a sense, Fener played with 10 men because unfit Alex was just roaming around the pitch like a somnambulist.
Fener coach Kocaman refused to be downhearted after the İnönü debacle. “We know we will win the remaining two matches and be crowned champions,” he said. “It is difficult, no doubt about it; but Fener has played under this kind of [tense] atmosphere and it is therefore nothing new,” he asserted.
Kocaman alluded to match fixing in the Trabzonspor-Galatasaray match last Saturday and is now on the receiving end of both the irate Trabzon and Galatasaray coaches.
Super Final standings
- P W D L GF GA Pts
- Galatasaray 4 2 1 1 7 4 46
- Fenerbahçe 4 3 0 1 6 3 43
- Trabzonspor 4 1 1 2 3 6 32
- Beşiktaş 4 1 0 3 2 5 31
Week 4, Sunday May 6
19:00 Trabzonspor vs. Fenerbahçe
19:00 Galatasaray vs. Beşiktaş
Week 6, May 12-13
Fenerbahçe vs. Galatasaray
Beşiktaş vs. Trabzonspor