Fenerbahçe was in devastated mood after being trounced by 3-1 by Antalyaspor at home in the Spor Toto Super League in week nine. But the Yellow Canaries, despite their sour mood, needed victory at all costs in week 10 away over struggling newcomer Akhisar Belediyespor at Manisa 19 Mayıs Stadium on Saturday evening to avoid another week of merciless sports media bashing.
Aykut Kocaman's Canaries managed a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Akhisar, but the result did not reflect the reality on the pitch. Football is not meritocratic because tiny host Akhisar was the better side.
The end justifies the means in football and the Canaries not only went home with three precious points on Saturday, but also ended their 181-day winless streak on the road.
The depleted Fenerbahçe defense -- missing Nigeria defender Joseph Yobo, Egemen Korkmaz, midfielders Mehmet Topuz and Portuguese Raul Jose Trindade Meireles -- was evidently vulnerable just looking at the line-up. With Bekir İrtegün and Serdar Kesimal playing as center backs, it was all very obvious that it was not going to be an easy evening for the Yellow Canaries.
And the expected happened in the 18th minute when veteran İzmir-born Çağdaş Atan headed home Sertan Vardar's free kick and gave Akhisar a 1-0 lead. But the Canaries responded with lightning speed, scoring two goals in four minutes to deny Hamza Hamzaoğlu's men a rare victory over an İstanbul heavyweight.
Unmarked Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt got the equalizer for the Canaries in the 25th minute, heading in a Cristian Baroni free kick from the left flank. And as inexperienced Akhisar was wondering what on earth had gone wrong, midfielder Selçuk Şahin banged in the second goal for the Canaries four minutes later (29th).
The Canaries resorted to “catenaccio,” or negative football, in the second half as Akhisar Belediyespor dominated play. But Hamzaoğlu's lads simply could not convert their dominance into goals, thereby going home pointless. And the players will be scratching their heads for a long time to come over German-born midfielder Ahmet Cebe's inability to score in the 51st minute with only Fener keeper Volkan Demirel to beat.
“We were in dire need of victory [after losing at home to Antalyaspor in week nine] and we won,” Kocaman said. And I hope this result will bring many more victories,” he added.
For the Canaries, however, the hard-fought victory will definitely boost team morale ahead of the Europa League Group C match against small Greek Cypriot side AEL Limassol in İstanbul on Thursday. Undisputed group leader Fenerbahçe won 1-0 in Nicosia on Oct. 25.
The other two Super League matches on Saturday produced goals galore. Struggling Kayserispor rebounded to crush visiting relegation-threatened Kardemir Karabükspor 3-0 with Beşiktaş reject Bobo scoring a brace.
Rampaging Eskişehirspor ran riot, walloping visiting southeastern side Gaziantepspor 4-0 with Galatasaray reject Necati Ateş also finding the back of the net twice.
Galatasaray remained at the Super League summit after beating İstanbul Büyükşehirspor 3-1, striker Umut Bulut scoring the first goal to bring his tally this season to eight.