17th Title for Galtasaray Within Reach with 1 More Point

Tuesday, May 06 2008 @ 01:42 pm UTC

Galatasaray denies all hopes for Sivasspor, and maintains the Turkcell Super League lead with a 5-3 win. Now a draw next weekend would be enough for the Lions to clinch the 17th league title. Even a draw against Genclerbirligi OFTAS next week would hand Galatasaray the Turkcell Super League title, but the Lions secured the position the hard way. For a brief moment Sunday night, the so-called “Anatolian revolution” in Turkish football seemed close to coming to life: Genclerbirligi scored a shock goal on Fenerbahce about 20 minutes after Galatasaray's Rigobert Song blundered to give Sivasspor the lead. For nearly 10 minutes, Sivas lived a dream of coming level in points with the Lions atop the league, making the title only a matter of goal difference, or at least giving it a berth in next year's Champions League.

However, the fall began to unfold: after conceding a goal, which was the first after the departure of Coach Karl-Heinz Feldkamp, Galatasaray took the lead with a double by Arda Turan with minutes to go before the half. At the same time Edu Dracena brought things level for Fenerbahçe. Sivasspor managed to come back twice in the game but then a glorious Galatasaray attack helped the game end 5-3 for the Turkcell Super League leader. Now Galatasaray is only one point from the title, while Sivasspor lost all hope of earning a Champions League spot next year.

Maintaining a successful run throughout the year, Sivasspor has become only the fifth team in Turkish football history to total 70 points in a season. Before Sunday, it was only a win away from bringing a badly-needed title to Anatolia. Nevertheless, the team's poor performance in big games made its title bid impossible. Sivas lost five of its six games against Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas, while conceding 11 goals in the three of them at home.

Coach Bulent Uygun asserted that his team proved to anyone that a team from Anatolia could play for the title. “My team, with a budget of YTL12 million, fought bravely in the league... I am proud of my players, and congratulate them.”

On the other side of Uygun and his team's silenced acceptance of the loss,
Galatasaray players were cheering for their victory. One player in particular was beaming. Scoring his first hat trick for Galatasaray, attacker Arda Turan capped a successful season for himself. The 21-year-old Turan first entered the limelight last year when Erik Gerets was at the helm. Immediately he was assigned the duty of being the star player of Galatarasay and national team and was criticized for not carrying that responsibility well. Some bright performances shined with his brilliant dribbling ability, added to an injury-plagued period and a Zidane-like head butt to Bordeaux's Franck
Jurietti in the Champions League marked a season of ups and downs for the young player. This year Turan is playing more consistently, adding depth to his dynamic game. His post-game comments underlined his maturity as well. He remarked that being able to play 30 games and contributing to the team was most important to him.

Obviously, dramatic changes in some footballers' playing character were vital to Galatasaray's season. Leaving Arda aside, Servet Cetin transformed from an unreliable player to arguably the most solid defender in the country. The former Mehmet Topal morphed into a combative midfielder who is playing the both sides of the game. The teamwork even affected striker Umit Karan forcing him to be a more versatile and energetic striker.

Those transformations were welcome when Galatasaray's form showed an unusual boost after the void left by coach Feldkamp's resignation. A trainer trio, board member Adnan Sezgin and veteran players joined forces to help the team to not miss a beat after Feldkamp's departure. Now all Galatasaray needs to do is secure a single point next weekend to cap an effort-filled season. It will be more than shocking if the ambitious Lions drop three points to cost them the year.

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