Rampant Besiktas swoop to first Turkish title since 2009


Istanbul (AFP) – Besiktas clinched the Turkish Super Lig title with a game to spare on Sunday, topping the league for the first time since 2009 and claiming Turkey’s sole automatic Champions League spot.

Driven on by over 40,000 fans inside their new stadium on the Bosphorus, Besiktas thrashed Osmanlispor of Ankara 3-1 to gain an unassailable advantage over local Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce going into the coming week’s final round of games.

The end to the over half-decade title drought sparked delirious celebrations in Istanbul, with thousands fans of the Black Eagles lighting flares outside the stadium and setting off firecrackers.

All over Istanbul, fans drove through the city carrying black-and-white Besiktas flags with horns blaring in a deafening cacophony.

Brazilian centre-back Marcelo Guedes put the hosts two goals ahead with strikes in rapid succession with just over 20 minutes on the clock.

German international striker Mario Gomez, the standout player for Besiktas this season and one of the most successful foreign imports into Turkish football in recent years, added a third just after half-time.

Striker Pierre Webo of Cameroon pulled one back for the visitors in the 74th minute, but by then, the celebrations were already beginning.

Playing at their home stadium on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, Fenerbahce defeated Genclerbirligi of Ankara 2-1 but are six points behind Besiktas with only three left up for grabs.

– ‘Like a dream’ –

“There was a great atmosphere and I went through all kinds of emotion. For me this season has been like a dream,” Gomez, who has resurrected his career after arriving on loan from Fiorentina, said after the game.

Gunes said it was now the turn of Besiktas to shine after years of domination by Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce and Galatasaray.

“Fenerbahce are a good team, a strong team, but we are better. Everyone is looking at Besiktas with respect,” he said.

Besiktas were the most consistent team under Gunes, who guided Turkey to third place in the 2002 World Cup, but face a challenge to attract more international stars, or even hold on to the league’s top scorer Gomez who has the right to return to Fiorentina.

Gomez declined to be drawn on his future but indicated that he could yet stay. 

“I am here now and I know very well what the conditions are at Besiktas. We have the Champions League in front of us. I feel good things.”

Gunes said it was in the interests of the 30-year-old to stay put in Turkey.

“If Mario stays I think it is good for his career. Mario helped us but we also helped Mario. He won’t lose anything by staying, by going he could lose.”

Despite signing Robin Van Persie and Nani from Manchester United in the close season, Fenerbahce were left disappointed and coach Vitor Pereira looks likely to be shown the door at the season’s end.

This campaign has been an unmitigated disaster for last season’s champions Galatasaray, on their third manager this season and languishing just above mid-table despite the presence of stars like Wesley Sneijder and Lukas Podolski.

To add insult to injury, the Istanbul side have been banned by UEFA from Europe for two seasons for overspending.

The Turkish football scene remains shadowed by allegations of match fixing, meagre attendances at non-derby fixtures, sloppy refereeing and poor crowd behaviour.

But Turkey will fancy themselves as dark horses going into Euro 2016, with talisman Arda Turan hoping to put behind him a disappointing season on the sidelines at Barcelona and striker Cenk Tosun of Besiktas and goalkeeper Volkan Babacan Basaksehir emerging as new stars of the national side. 

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