Fenerbahce 0-0 Galatasaray: not enough support for the lone strikers
Galatasaray ended their incredible ten-year losing streak at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium with a goalless draw.
Fenerbahce played a fairly standard 4-2-3-1 systemwith few surprises. The powerful Mamadou Niang was the lone striker, with support from the Brazilian playmaker Alex. Miroslav Stoch started on the left and Issiar Dia on the right, but they switched flanks throughout.
Gheorghe Hagi was taking charge of his first game in his second stint as Galatasaray manager. The shape of the side was somewhere between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, with Mustafa Sarp shuttling between Lorik Cana in the holding midfield role, and Zvezdan Misimovic further forward. Juan Pablo Pino was pushed forward from the wing to become a lone striker in the absence of Milan Baros and Harry Kewell, while Emiliano Insua was dropped, with Hakan Balta coming in.
The game started at a predictably frantic pace, with both sides getting the ball forward quickly. The centre of the midfield seemed congested at a very early stage, and the flanks saw more potential danger.
The first interesting battle of the match was Stoch v Sabri Sarioglu, a player recalled by Hagi after a spell on the sidelines. Sabri seemed nervous when Stoch ran at him with pace, but then pushed Stoch back into a defensive position with a good forward run down the flank.
The main goal threat from both sides came from the lone strikers, on the few occasions they managed to get the better of the two centre-back pairings. They were in similar situations but have very different styles – Pino used his pace and drifted into wide areas, whilst Niang relished physical confrontations, in particular with Lucas Neill.
Fenerbahce had more creativity in the centre of the pitch, with Alex in a classic playmaker role, and Emre deeper in midfield knocking passes across the pitch with little pressure. Both sides, however, settled down into a more patient, cautious approach when they had the ball after ten minutes.
One of the more notable features of the game was how composed the four centre-backs were on the ball, and so neither side felt the need to get it into the opposition half quickly. This ‘problem’ was exacerbated by the fact both defences were sitting very deep – the play was stretched across the majority of the pitch, and therefore the centre-backs were frequently 80-90m from goal when they had the ball.
Galatasaray were probably more fluid, with Pino drifting wide, Misomovic moving across the pitch and Ayhan Akman and Elano both looking to come inside. They were also better at pressing when not in possession, although this lured a couple of their players into rash tackles, and bookings.
Lack of goals
There was a lack of clear goalscoring chances for three main reasons. First, the two strikers were up against it – not only were they playing against defences that had a spare man at the back, they were also playing against, frankly, better players than them. Lucas Neill, Servet Cetin, Diego Lugano and Joseph Yobo are all solid centre-backs with significant international experience, and they coped well.
Second, the strikers didn’t receive enough support from their teammates. Part of the issue here was the aforementioned deep defensive lines – the play was so stretched that the space between midfield and attack was huge. Misimovic and Alex were often on their heels when the ball was hit forward, and there weren’t enough players willing to break into the box to get in goalscoring positions.
Third, the midfield players were all closely occupied with an opponent. Alex was cancelled out by Cana, and Emre and Mehmet Topuz by Cara and Sarp. And vice-versa, when Galatasaray got the ball. No midfielders had any time on the ball, and therefore found it difficult to create.
A 0-0 looked on the cards when all the creative players were replaced – Misimovic, Elano and Alex all made way, as did Cana and Issiar Dia. None had done much on the ball, but they were probably still the players most likely to unlock the defences. Both managers were attempting to try something different, but by keeping the same formations, a goal was always unlikely to arrive.
Aykut Kocaman, Fenerbahce manager, said, ”Galatasaray was ahead of us in the first half, in terms of dictating the play and we had our problems. We were better in the second half and got more chances, but they were not enough for a win. I think both teams deserved the draw.”
“Not enough for a win” sums up the performances of both – in basic terms, the defenders were simply better than the attackers.