Fenerbahce 2-2 Galatasaray: Fenerbahce score two great goals, then go too defensive

March 18, 2012

The starting line-ups

Galatasaray are close to the title after an impressive comeback in the Kıtalar Arası Derbi.

Fenerbahce coach Aykut Kocaman has named an XI similar to this all season – ten of the positions featured his most-used individual in that role. The exception was Moussa Sow, who only arrived from Lille in January, but has been a regular upfront since. Miroslav Stoch has shared the left-wing position with Caner Erkin, while Serdar Kesimal competes with Fabio Bilica and Bekir Irtegun for a place at centre-back, but this was a typical Fenerbahce XI.

Fatih Terim also called on a familiar XI for Galatasaray. This is representative of his usual side, with some slight exceptions – Necati Ates, like Sow, is a January signing and has edged out Milan Baros. Engin Baytar has only become a regular since the departure of Colin Kazim-Richards, while on the left Albert Riera has started more games, but Emre Colak has been preferred in recent weeks.

This was an odd game – Galatasaray played better for the vast majority, but after Fenerbahce went 2-0 up with two extraordinary goals, it was they who were in the stronger position.


The two sides used different formations, which resulted in an interesting tactical battle. Fenerbahce used a 4-2-3-1 with the wide players forming a second bank of four without the ball, while Galatasaray were a rough 4-4-2. The game was open and exciting, with a quick – but not over-fiery – feel. Both sides were fluid, got their full-backs forward well, and wanted to win the game.

Fenerbahce go ahead

The home side’s shape actually looked quite poor early on, but they found themselves 2-0 up midway through the first half. Sow lacked support, often had to fend for himself with long balls hit down the centre of the pitch, but held the ball up well and made some clever runs into the left-hand channel. His overhead kick was a superb finish.

An interesting battle was going on in the centre of midfield – although Galatasaray were 4-4-2, their central midfielders rarely sat side-by-side. Usually, they had Felipe Melo sitting watching Alex, and Selcuk Inan playing higher up the pitch and pressing the two Fenerbahce holders. Melo didn’t play the deeper role well though, and Alex easily moved away form him to the left, most obviously for the second goal he thumped into the top corner from 25 yards.

Galatasaray get into the game

That meant Galatasaray had to come out and press, which can be difficult when you’re playing 4-4-2 and have two strikers doing little without the ball. The danger with pressing with a 4-4-2 against a 4-2-3-1 is that your two holders will get sucked into a battle with the opposition holders, and leave their number ten free. That would have happened, but Galatasaray were brave in pushing left-sided centre-back Semih Kaya high up onto Alex – a couple of times Semih looked uncomfortable, but managed to get a tactical foul in, to stop Fenerbahce breaks.

The home side rather went into a good lead too early, so no longer had to attack and got dominated. When they did go forward, however, they did so intelligently. With neither Johan Elmander nor Ates dropping into the midfield, Fenerbahce had 3 v 2 in that zone. Inevitably, the Galatasaray wide players got sucked inside to help out, and then Fenerbahce could bring their full-backs forward into play.


Galatasaray were actually doing something similar at the other end. They tended to play very good combinations in central zones, with Inan moving forward into the hole and Colak drifting in quickly from the left flank, which meant those two, Ates and Elmander formed a tight square – and this eventually resulted in Elmander’s goal.

Before the goal, they’d been building up play in the middle then switching the ball outside to a full-back. Hakan Balta and Emmanuel Eboue got forward (Stoch didn’t track back well, but was a threat on the break with his pace), and Engin Baytar stayed wide on the right and often popped up unnoticed on the overlap.

But this was basically a classic 4-2-3-1 v 4-4-2 battle. The 4-2-3-1 had a numerical advantage in midfield, got players into space between the lines, and had a central attacking playmaker in Alex. But the 4-4-2 could take advantage of the 4-2-3-1’s lack of protection for their full-backs, and the lack of a spare man at the back – that proved crucial for the goal.

Second half

The line-ups from around 65 mins - changes (of personnel or position) highlighted

The second half centred around one substitution on 63 minutes: Kocaman’s decision to take off Stoch and introduce another holding midfielder, Selcuk Sahin. Terim also made a couple of changes – straight swaps with Baros and Aydim Yilmaz on.

But Fenerbahce’s change meant a change of system – Sahin went to the central midfield zone, so there was suddenly a gap on the left. It took a while to sort out who was now playing there, and Eboue took advantage of that immediately by storming forward unchecked and flashing a cross across the box.

When Kocaman’s instructions were understood, it was now obvious that Sow was being asked to play out on the left and block Eboue, with Alex moving forward to become a false nine, in a shape that was 4-1-4-1, or 4-3-3 – but basically with ten men behind the ball, and Alex upfront alone.

Galatasaray dominate

This was a mistake – Alex couldn’t hang onto the ball and Fenerbahce couldn’t get up the pitch, which was a particularly frustrating situation as Sow had been holding the ball up so well. Galatasaray no longer had to worry about Alex between the lines, could leave 2 v 1 at the back, and focus their other eight players on attacking. It was relentless pressure in the second half.

Kocaman used this system for 15 minutes, then realised his error and removed Alex to bring on Issiar Dia, more of a physical presence. But even then, they couldn’t relieve the pressure and Galatasaray eventually got an equaliser after a set-piece.

With the situation in the league – the away side nine points clear at the top with three to play – Galatasaray were now happy with a point, while Fenerbahce clearly weren’t. Terim brought on Riera for Elmander – a winger for a forward, while Kocaman did the opposite – Mehmet Topuz off, Henri Ntsama on. Galatasaray now played more defensively, but still managed to hit the bar seconds before full-time.


Two stages here – first the simple formation battle, where the two sides had different areas of strength, and knew how to work this to their advantage in attacking zones.

Then, the 15 minute period when Alex struggled alone upfront, which allowed Galatasaray to pile on the pressure, something Fenerbahce never recovered from, and Terim’s side effectively won the title tonight.

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