Regular season over, playoffs set to begin

Regular season over, playoffs set to begin

Galatasaray players celebrate after crushing relegatated Aegean side Manisaspor in the regular season’s finale at 19 Mayıs Stadium on Sunday. (PHOTO TODAY’S ZAMAN, Selman Eştürkler )

April 09, 2012, Monday/ 17:31:00/ OKAN UDO BASSEY

The regular season of the 2011-12 Spor Toto Super league came to a close after leader Galatasaray pulverized doomed Manisaspor 4-0 away at Manisa’s 19 Mayıs Stadium on Sunday evening.

In a match between the best and second-worst teams, it was a foregone conclusion that Galatasaray was going to give Manisaspor a sound beating. But the number of goals Fatih Terim’s Galatasaray men were going to score remained anybody’s guess.

Things do not always go according to plan in football, and so the first half ended 0-0, despite the fact that poor Manisaspor played the last six minutes or so with 10 men, after İzmir-born midfielder Yiğit İncedemir was sent for a second bookable offense in the 39th minute.

Coach Terim brought in winger Aydın Yılmaz to replace slumping Sabri Sarıoğlu and that substitution worked wonders. Aydın was barely on the pitch for a minute when he was brought down in the Manisaspor box in the 46th by Accra-born Ghanaian left back Jeremiah Akaminko, and referee Suat Arslanboğa made no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot.

Selçuk İnan, a former Manisaspor and Trabzonspor midfielder, coolly converted the penalty in the 47th to give Galatasaray a 1-0 lead. Selçuk was again on target in the 77th to double the score with a wicket shot from outside the box -- thus increasing the number of goals he has scored this season to 11.

Muslera makes history

Galatasaray’s Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera was the only foreign acquisition on the team this season, who had not scored. The 25-year-old Muslera broke the “jinx” when he converted a penalty in the 82nd to make the score 3-0, scoring the first goal in his illustrious career.

Muslera also made Galatasaray club history by not conceding a single goal in 16 of the 32 matches he played this season, eclipsing the record of 15 goals that was jointly held by former keepers Claudio Taffarel and Faryd Mondragon.

Czech Republic striker Milan Baros, who substituted Sweden striker Johan Elmander, completed the rout in the 80th, tapping in the ball to seal the deal: Manisaspor 0, Galatasaray 4.

And Terim heaped praise on his players. “My players put on a good fight and showed beyond doubt that they are a good team,” he said.

“We did not start the season well but we pulled ourselves together fast. I am also awaiting the same success in the Super Final. It’s not easy; but we played positive football. And I am confident that after six weeks [in the playoffs], Galatasaray will finish ahead,” he noted.

Emre sees red

The only bad news for undisputed leader Galatasaray (77 points) is that lefty Emre Çolak saw red in the 88th and will therefore be missing the first game of the top four championship playoffs, scheduled to begin on Saturday. The other teams in the playoffs are Fenerbahçe (68), Trabzonspor (56) and Beşiktaş (55).

As it’s known, the playoffs will not start at zero; but the points earned by each of the four teams will be divided by two. This means Galatasaray will start with 39 points, Fener with 34, and Trabzonspor and Beşiktaş will have 28 points apiece.

The team that finishes first in the playoffs will be crowned the champion of Turkey and will represent the country in the UEFA Champions League next season. The second-place finisher will play in the Champions League qualifiers and the third in the Europa League. The No. 4 in the playoffs will play the winner of the fifth to eighth playoffs for the remaining Europa League spot.

Trabzon ended the regular season on a low note after the goalless draw away with Orduspor in a Black Sea derby on Sunday. But the Storm, as Trabzonspor is popularly called, already ousted from Europe, the Turkish League and almost hopeless in the playoffs, is very likely to wind up winning nothing at all this season.

Supporting cast

As mentioned on Monday, Eskişehirspor, İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor, Sivasspor and Bursaspor will be slugging it out for a berth in Europa next season.

Samsunspor lost the relegation dog fight, while Antalyaspor survived, and so the Black Sea newcomer will again be plying its trade in the second division next season, along with Ankaragücü and Manisaspor.

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