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A match that started with the hope that Galatasaray supporters would be given a one day sojourn from their nightmare season ended not with an awakening but a downward spiral. Two second half goals from the Yellow Canaries led Fenerbahçe to a comeback victory over their rivals, winning 2-1 at Türk Telekom Arena. The loss sends Galatasaray to a club record 12th league loss while giving Fener a temporary three point lead on Trabzonspor in the Süper Lig.
The match started promising for Galatasaray, who used the energy of their new arena's first derby to push their opponents on their heels. A strong opening from Lorik Cana neutralized Alex, cut-off the supply line to Mamadou Niang, while allowing Gala to execute Gheorge Hagi's plan, which appeared to center around attacking Fener left back Andre Santos.
The plan paid off in the 14th minute when Kazim Kazim, in his first appearance against his former club, overpowered the Brazilian along the byline, won the ball and played it back toward the middle of the area for Milan Baros. The Czech attacker's shot was saved by Volkan Demirel, but the rebound came out to the recovering Kazim, whose first touch shot the ball beaten Demirel's legs for the opening goal.
Even after the goal, it took Fener 20 more minutes to wake-up, the first half playing out as if the Canaries wanted to reach halftime so they could regroup. Yet by the end of the half, Fenerbahçe had put together 10 good minutes, finally creating a game that saw more room in the midfield for Alex, allowing their captain to spread the ball from flank-to-flank and through to Niang.
While the match would reach halftime with Gala up 1-0, Fener was able to maintain some of their momentum when the second half kicked-off. This, along with fitness issues, let to Hagi bringing Arda Turan off the bench, the attacker's swap for Kazim Kazim giving the home side a boost. Turan's fresh legs compounded the problems he would otherwise cause and bought Galatasaray 15 minutes where Fenerbahçe was forced to adjust.
At the end of that time, however, Fener was ready to come back into the match. But the Canaries needs some help from Gala's defense, who failed to mark Semih Senturk on a restart in the 75th minute, allowing the Turkey intentional to meet a Alex cross at the edge of the six, giving Robinson Zapata no chance to prevent the equalizer.
Near full time, it was a similar story. A ball worked from left-to-right allowed Gokhan Gonul to put a cross toward the spot from 30 yards out. The out-swinging ball met Alex, who leaned back to redirect the ball to the near post, scoring Fenerbahce's winning goal.
The win puts Fenerbahçe three points up at the top of the Süper Lig, pending weekend action. For Galatasaray, the mood could be summed up at match's end by Milan Baros. The Czech attacker after exchanging his jersey for one of his opponents', had to be restrained from going after the head referee post-match. Baros was already on a yellow yet was shown straight red, possibly excusing himself from Gala's next three matches.
Let's settle in for a record day in Istanbul, where Turk Telekom Arena is about to host it's first iteration of the biggest inner-city derby in the world: Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. The 52,695 seat arena opened in January and is ready for its first main event, where Gala is hoping the home fans set a world record for loudest crowd at a sporting event. Guinness is on notice.
Another mark that could be set tonight would be an unfortunate one: Galatasaray setting a new record for most losses during a league campaign, with their current total of 12 (in 25 matches) already earning a place in the history books. With league-leading Fener taking a nine-match winning streak into today's contest, Galatasaray is a shocking large underdog in today's match.
Stay with us after the 3:00 p.m. kickoff for our minute-by-minute coverage, the match now a mere moments from kickoff. The teams are on the pitch, singing the Turkish nation anthem.
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0:00 - Teams are shaking hand after the captains finish with their center circle salutations. Each team huddles up for some final words before breaking-up to prepare for kick-off. Some final words and then a moment to observe the ongoing tragedy in Japan. The shape whistles from the crowd that had dominated the pre-match atmosphere are silenced as if on mute. Moments later, the crowd murmurs as the ball's put down on the spot. Gala kicks-off, moving left to right on the screen.
1:00 - Fener doesn't want to exert much high pressure, but Gala's back line looks so uneasy on the ball that the Canaries might as well. Soon they've won the ball, and after giving it back, they've forced Gala to play it deep.
2:30 - Milan Baros is taken down along the right flank by Selcuk Sahin. Foul is called and no real threat to Fener, but you can see the threat the Czech striker poses. As imformative, if he's going to attack the right side, Andre Santos is going to have to play better defensively than we're accustomed.
4:30 - Gala again trying down the right, at Santos, this time with Kazim Kazim, making his first appearance against his former club. No threat comes from it, but most of this match is being played at the bottom of my screen, with Fener's left being tested.
5:30 - Gala first foray down their left is broken up by right back Gorkan Gonul, a convincing display that may discourage challenging down the left. As important, though, Gala is doing all the attacking, and while they haven't had any success getting the ball close to Volkan Demirel, they've kept Fener off the ball.
7:50 - Mamadou Niang is brought down near the center circle as Fener tries to break out of their own half. Later in the match, that's a card. Early in the match, it's a tone-setter. The tone: Gala can get away with this approach knowing they have an extra tool to use in breaking-up Fener's counter attacks.
9:15 - Joseph Yobo has to come across from his left-center-half position to deal with a ball that was slid behind Diego Lugano. Gala still hasn't had a foray into the Fener box, but they sure are making progress.
10:15 - Relatively close call as a foul given on Gala's left leads to a dead ball chance. A ball in-swung toward Demirel's left post sees Lucas Neill try to run onto it. Unfortunately, he runs through Ugur Boral to try and get to the ball. Foul, and still no serious threats for Gala.
11:50 - Lorik Cana is controlling Alex de Souza early, but the midfield hard-man may have been given his first deterrent. Fould is called has be takes down the Fener star, giving Fener a restart just inside Gala's half. Poor defending by the Lions leads to a chance from the right side of the area.
13:15 - GOALLLLLLLL!!!! And It's Kazim Kazim! In his first start against his former team, the footballer formerly known as Colin Richards has scored, and for Gala, their hammering at Andree Santos has paid off. Kazim won and individual battle with Santos near touch on the right side. He played the ball back toward goal for Milan Baros, the Czech attacker seeing his shot saved by Demirel. The rebound came out to Kazim who fired Gala in front. Spectacular start for Gala!
16:00 - Turk Telekom Arena is very, very loud. I would be surprised if this is record-setting, though. Who knows. It could come down to the mics the broadcasters are using. The cameras they're using, however, is picking up the smoke from the flares, the home side celebrating their early lead.
18:00 - We're still seeing a lot of the action take place down Gala's left, but for the first time tonight, Fenerbahçe has seen some interplay between their stars: Niang and Alex. But there is still a feeling that the league-leaders are a bit overwhelmed by the occasion, atmosphere, and score. This might be a case of getting to half and regrouping.
19:50 - Fener is finally able to break out on a counter, drawing the Gala defense compact before swinging it out to the right. But their effort is unorganized, and Gonul's attempt to jump-in from the back leads to a turnover. Gala quickly resumes possession.
21:55 - Kazim Kazim almost had another. He should ahve had another, going wide right after cutting in from the flank to run onto a ball played to him to the right of goal. Andre Santos, having to collapse inside to help a defense that had broken down, got back in time to (seemingly) block the ball wide, but that could have been the second goal.
23:30 - Santos is against exploited down the right, though this is hardly his fault. Two-on-one against the left back leads to a cross from Emmanuel Culio, the Argentine's header going a foot wide of Demirel's left post.
25:15 - With so much of the game being played on Fener's left, Cristian Baroni is becoming a key to Fener's night. The Brazilian is going to have to be the man that moves the ball from left to middle, where Alex can work his magic. To this point, Baroni's giving the ball away too often, though not always out of pure negligence.
26:30 - First chance for Fenerbahçe sees Robinson Zapata have to lay-out at his right post to save a one-timer generated after Fener crossed in from the right. Two corners ensured with no addition chances, but it's the best threat the Canaries have posed tonight.
29:00 - Folly averted as a back pass for Zapata was nearly intercepted by Mamadou Niang. The Colombian plays the ball out to his right, beating the Senegalese by one step. Fener's bothering the Lions for the first time tonight.
31:00 - A through ball from Alex intended for Niang is swallowed up by Zapata, but Gorkan Zan is adjudicated to have pulled down Niang at the edge of the area. Replays show Niang exaggerated the contact, and the contact may have taken place in the box. Instead, the foul is gived inside the arc, forcing Gala to set-up a 10-man wall. Fener tries to beat the Lions to the 10-yard mark, and when shoving ensures, we get another reminder of this rivalry's intensity. When the kick is finally taken, Alex's left-footer drip a moment too late, going over the bar and out for a goal kick.
34:00 - With the game opening up, Fener is having little trouble finding Alex i the middle of the park. This leads to another Gala foul, with the Fener captain being brought down 30 yards from goal just as he'd picked-up a head of steam. Alex chips right for Diego Lugano, but it's a weak attempt. The ball we dead-on goal, giving the Canaries no angle to work with.
36:00 - Fenerbahce continues to be the better side. For the first time, Gala's defense looks disorganized. Fenerbahce just hasn't count the right combination. However, they have opened up the middle of the pitch (Cana's name hasn't been called in a while). They're working the ball from flank-t-flank, and as if having punched a bully in the mouth, they're no longer dealing with as much gala pressure. The Lions are relying on Milan Baros to lead them into counters.
39:00 - Throw-in deep in Fener's end leads to a long shot from Cana after a nice tackle at the edge of the box by Alex took the ball off Baros's feet. Cristian Baroni comes out to bother the shot, which is sent 10 meters over the bar.
41:00 - Something for the beginning of the match that we'd forgotten amidst Gala's hot start: their back line is terrible on the ball. Within a 30 second span, they give the ball away twice, and not on long passes. Balls played to the next level of their attack are intercepted with little effort.
42:00 - Ozer Hurmaci may have just gotten lucky. The Fener midfielder just ran up and bumped chests with the referee while protesting a call. Only a yellow card.
44:40 - For the first time in the match, Fener has Gala pushed back deep and is able to string together a series of touches at the edge of the attacking third. But a poor decision from Gokhan Gonul leads to the ball going out to Gala, at which point the whistle blows. No injury time. The match goes to half, 1-0 Galatasaray.
45:00 - We're back underway int eh second half. The crowd's spirits are high, having 15 minutes to think about the potential for an unlikely win. Fenerbahce, however, looks ready to carry over momentum from a first half that saw them close strong, if unsuccessfully.
48:00 - As the match goes on, you start to feel like Gala's early success was the product of home crowd, new area, and the underdog's prerogative. Since about the 35-minute mark, we've see why Fener has been the better team this season. If this trend continues, a goal could be coming soon.
49:50 - Another side things have changed from the match's opening: Santos is having no trouble with Kazim Kazim on Gala's right. Kazim, on the other hand, seems to have little interest in coming back to help as Mamadou Niang started to play more on the Fener left flank.
51:30 - Now Kazim is down. We'll have to wait for replays ... which show the Gala attacker came down with a straight left leg, the joint buckling slightly on impact. The broadcast takes time to replay the first half goal. Even if Kazim does nothing else tonight, that goal will make this a strong showing for him. As is, he's up.
52:30 - Gala is strong in the middle than they were at the end of the first half, though it seems as if they're playing their midfield deeper, with three central midfielders in a base position 12 yards in front of the back line, which is setting up at the edge of the area. Fener should see a lot of the ball this half. Oh, Kazim's down again.
55:45 - Demiral just had to push a 30-yard rocket from Lorik Cana over the bar. The chance came as a ball played in from the Gala left was cleared by Diego Lugano, clearance that eventually functioned as a lay-off from Cana. The shot looked very speculative, but that speculatoin came true. Demiral with the save. Gala with the corner.
56:45 - Gala retained possesion after their corner came to nothing, eventually swinging in a cross from the left. Servit Cetin - still in the box from the corner kick - dives onto the cross and beat Demirle, but the play is so clearly offside that the Turk Telekom crowd doesn't bother reacting.
59:45 - A through ball from Kazim rolled 30 yards for Baros forces Demirel off his line, but the Czech player fails to pull up and appears to take a knee to the face. For a moment, it seemed the `keeper had unintentionally put a knee to Baros's eye. Now, it seems he'll be fine.
60:30 - A nice ovation is given to Kazim Kazim as he's brought off. The attacker gingerly walks to the sideline, but injury or not, he wasn't ready to play 90 minutes. Arda Turan is on, which may both change Gala's shape and make them much more dangerous on the counter.
63:00 - An ambitious ball played from Gonul goes the length of the pitch on a diagonal, finding Andre Santos streaking behidn teh defense. Only an outstretched left arm from the left back keeps the pass from leading to a chance, though that doesn't stop the Brazilian from firing into the side netting after the whistle blows.
64:30 - Gala is settling deeper in deeper. Now, we see Baros coming back farther to pick up the ball, having little help when he turns upfield. Mehmet TOpuz chopping him down gives the Czech itnernational a chance to waste some time. Hopefully, this match isn't already coming to that.
65:20 - Arda Turan's influence is felt. He breaks through the right side of Fener's defense before winning a battle and playing the ball back for Bogdan Stancu, whose attempt doesn't bother Demirel. However, Turan's energy creates a chance, something that his fresh legs could do for the remainder of the match.
67:45 - A long ball over the back of the Gala line can't be tracked down by Niang, Goal kick for Gala, and Fener's first attempt at a next tactic is unsuccessful. Gheorge Hagi is making another change. Stancu is off. Harry Kewell is on.
69:10 - Turan generates another chance, this time to the right of goal. Nobody is there as Turan cuts a ball back to the spot from just before the byline, but based on how Baros reacts to the referee, the Czech attacker feels there was something nefarious about how he was kept from the ball. Yellow card, Baros. You happy?
70:45 - More yellow card magic, and again, it's to Gala. Emmanuel Culio - who has had a great match - is cautioned for a tackle. On the restart, Semih Senturk low bridges Robinson Zapata. That should be a card. It's not.
72:45 - Fener's making a change. Miro Stoch is on. A hoppling Mamdou Niang is on. This can't be good for Fener. Their second leading scorer is off, Senturk's been silent, and ever since Gala moved their midfield back, Alex has been a non-factor. I suppose Stoch can't hurt.
74:15 - Free kick given 35-yards out, something we're likely to see more as the match plays out. This one, however, is given after a 50-50 handball call. But it's from the same spot that the foul was given up toward the end of the first half - the middle ground where Alex can't shoot, yet he has not angle.The Brazilian chips it in and ...
74:50 - GOALLLLLLLLLLLLL! Horrible marking for Galatasaray allowed Semih Senturk to meet the ball at the edge of teh six, giving Robinson Zapata no change. That was training ground stuff. Completely breakdown by Gala.
76:50 - Another Gala goal is called back, and oh were they ever offside. Two Gala players are at least two meters off when Milan Baros gives the crowd something to regret.
78:00 - This is getting .. great. Alex chips a ball over the Gala line for an onrushing Santos, who puts a ball across the face of goal from the far left of the box. A Fener player - it looks like it's Hurmaci - is one step late getting to the ball at the far post. The shot goes a yard wide.
79:50 - For the first time in a while, Gala has possession and is able to try and break down the Fener defense. Turan is at the center of it, allowing Galatasaray to try and deflate some building Fenerbahçe momentum. Now Fener has a man down. The teams get a break to regroup for the final 10 minutes.
81:50 - Cana's presence reemerges, taking the ball off Alex's feet before the Brazilian has a chance to execute another cute little chip. Moments later Gala is breaking out, but their counter is wasted when a speculate shot it made into a souvenir.
84:00 - Hagi makes his final change. Yakta Kurtulus is off. Ayhan Akman is on - a like-for-like.
85:10 - Bringing on Turan continues to give benefits. Every time Gala breaks out, they're able to find him - most often on the left - where he can hold-up play and kill time while Fener regains their shape before closing him down.
86:50 - GOAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL! Unbelievable! Fenerbahçe has done it! Working the ball from left flank to right, Gonul plays a cross in from 30 yards up pitch. Alex is there! His league-leading 19th goal of the season gives Fener their first lead of the match! Gala' is stunned. Gala 1, Fener 2!
88:00 - The captain give sup his armband as he comes off, Bekir Irtegun on to provide more defense
90:20 - A glass bottle comes from the stands, flying with a few feet of Wolkan Demirel in Fenerbahçe's goal. Play is stopped to take the bottle off the pitch.
90:30 - Foul given by Fenerbahce gives Turan a chance to drive a ball in from the left flank, near the byline. No danger, though from that position, Gala should have done more.
91:50 - Senturk has a break - a chance to seal the match for Fener - but the attacker pulls up from 20-yards out and hits a week shot right to Robinson Zapata.
93:15 - A beautiful cross from Arda Turan hangs in the air for Milan Baros, who elevates from the spot. But this isn't Baros's game. He never looks confident. The jump is mistimed. He doesn't even try to uncoil into the ball. What a waste. Only 45 second left.
94:20 - The whistle goes and Fenerbahçe has their 10th straight win, their first a Türk Telekom Arena. Two horrible pieces of defending have undone the Lions, though credit has to go to Fenerbahçe. For the first 35 minutes, they were terrible. The failed to match Gala's intensity, but they remained patient and got their goals.
Minutes after the match - Milan Baros sees red. The attacker had been complaining all match and decided to have a final word with the officials. If that doesn't sum up Gala's season - heart breaking loss compounded by a star losing his head.
Galatasaray vs. Fenerbahçe -- a thrilling derby, yet one that also presents a challenge. As a Fenerbahçe fan, I know I have no real right to complain, with my club in joint-first place after a nine-game winning streak. I'm not used to following teams that regularly win, and it's kind of a fun change. But at the same time, following Fenerbahçe is a difficult undertaking. I don't speak Turkish and it's difficult to find news, match reports and injury updates without resorting to Google Translate. Often I feel adrift at sea, liking the Yellow Canaries but not always understanding what's going on.
But at the same time, following the team is rather liberating. Bear with me here. You know how when you're watching a match and the commentator makes a point, and you find yourself just nodding and agreeing? Or even when you disagree, you're wasting energy venting about it on Twitter? Well, when you watch a Turkish SuperLig match and all you understand is "goal" and "yellow card", there's no side to take. You can't just parrot what someone else has said and try to pass it off as your own analysis. This is just you, your eyes, and the thoughts rattling around in your head. It's your call whether Mamadou Niang is playing well, or if Diego Lugano really deserved that sending off.
With the Istanbul Derby just a few minutes away, I encourage you to take this challenge. Tune in to Galatasaray - Fenerbahçe. Make your own calls on the level of play and the talent of those involved. See if you've got any thoughts of your own, or if you're just a voice echoing the thoughts of someone else.
It's difficult to be forgotten while becoming a legend, but for Fenerbahçe captain Alex de Souza, that's started to happen. Before making the move to Turkey in 2004, the attacking midfielder commonly featured in the Brazilian national team. But when he moved from Cruziero to Fener his time with the Selecao started to fade. Shortly before the 2006 World Cup, he made his last appearance for this country despite the 27-year-old good for a goal every four games with his national team.
As Alex's international hopes dimmed his club life was coming to life. Having returned to Europe after a brief foray into the Italian Serie A, the man Fener started building their attack around was a crucial component to four Champions League campaigns, including the Yellow Canaries' run to the quarterfinals in 2007-08. And while Fenerbahçe's influence on the continent has faded, the Brazilian has maintained his effect on the club, notching double-digit goals and assists in each league season since moving to Istanbul.
But because of his age and his club's misfortunes, the Fenerbahçe captain has become overlooked. He is now the third most prominent Brazilan Alex in UEFA, behind the Chelsea defender and Spartak Moscow midfielder Given how few people know of Alex Meschini's exploits in the Russian Liga, the Alex who has been a dominant player at Palmeiras, Cruziero and Fener is an afterthought where he's remembered at all.
Ironically, Alex's production may actually be improving. With 18 goals, Alex leads the Turkish Süper Lig. His 10 assists have helped Mamadou Niang make a smooth transition from Marseille, the Senegalese striker's 14 goals second in league. The duo, along with Niang's partner Semih Senturk, have given Fenerbahçe the best attack in Turkey, the team's 60 goals eight more than any other club in league. As a result, Fenerbahçe is in first place, joint top with Trabzonspor, as they hope to end their three-year title drought.
Should they claim the league, it will be Fener's record 18th title, giving them one more than arch rivals Galatasaray. Gala last won the league in 2008, one year after Fener's 17th title, the fifth season in a row one of Turkey's two biggest clubs had taken the league. Not that such a run was remarkable, given the clubs had won seven in a row before fellow-Istanbul club Beşiktaş claimed 2003's title.
Track back through the history of the Turkish first division and you see the same thing. Aside from Beşiktaş in the early 90s and Ahmet Suat Özyazıcı's great Trabzonspor teams of the late 70s, there have only been two faces to Turkish football. As Real Madrid and Barcelona are to Spain, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray are to Turkey.
This year, however, Galatasaray has hit a low point. Their early season struggles saw them sitting at the periphery of European qualification, a status that led to manager Frank Rijkaard's departure. Romanian legend Gheorghe Hagi returned to the place he finished his playing career (where he managed the team to a domestic cup in 2005), but the team's only gotten worse, leading to fans to call for his dismissal. Galatasaray has set a club record for losses in a league season with 12.
Gala currently sits in 11th place, and although their talent is no longer keeping up with Fener's, this team is too good to be this bad. Lucas Neill, Emiliano Insua, Harry Kewell and Milan Baros are the internationals that catch eyes, though Turks Sabri Sarioglu, Servet Cetin, Hakan Balta, and Kazim Kazim (fresh from the other side of the Bosphorus) make this the second most recognizable team in the league. Arda Turan, the Lions' captain and best player, will also feature, but with the midfielder coming off a long-term injury, he is not match-fit.
Even if the squad was at full strength and in form, a derby win over Fenerbahçe would be the proverbial tall order. Gala has only one league win over Fener since 2004. The Yellow Canaries also carry a nine-match winning streak into Friday's meeting, and even with star midfielder Emre Belözoğlu a miss, Aykut Kocaman's side will be profound favorites to stay atop the league.
The profound nature of it is the diverging paths of these two clubs. The charm of Gala-Fener has always been buttressed by the teams' statures, the titans rarely beyond a title race - let alone in the bottom half of the table. But such is that state of affairs at Galatasaray that the club is closer to relegation (12 points) than to Fener (24).
That chasm has some around Gala setting different goals. This will be the first derby at Türk Telekom Arena, where the Lions moved earlier this year. Galatasaray has alerted the Guinness Book of World Records that a mark could be set for the loudest crowd at a sporting event. Guinness officials will be in attendance, but with the recent form of the respective sides, Galatasaray may stand a better chance of setting the mark if they gave their supporter's tickets to Fenerbahçe fans. Yellow Canaries' supporters are more likely to have something to cheer about.
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