Fenerbahce-Besiktas: View from Istanbul after five sent off in derby
Istanbul derbies are always heated affairs and while the "Intercontinental Derby" between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce has international notoriety, there is a new contender in town as the Besiktas-Fenerbahce derby has now emerged as a worthy competitor.
After this weekend's wild 2-1 result in which five players were sent off, Eren Sarigul explains its explosion in both popularity and entertainment.
Why are they such big rivals?
Besiktas and Fenerbahce have always been rivals but the sheer level of drama we have seen over recent years is a recent development. Turkish football journalist for Fanatik newspaper, Gokmen Ozcan, described the growing rivalry: "There has always been a conflict but the last two seasons has seen friction increase as a result of Besiktas toppling the Fenerbahce-Galatasaray hegemony. This has spilled over to the fans and is why we've had such an intense atmosphere over recent years."
Fenerbahce fan Jukkis Savolainen, who was at Saturday's game also underlined the rise of Besiktas as being a factor behind the growing animosity. "The derby has become even more important than the Galatasaray derby. Gala are not as strong as before. Also this game was even more important than usual for Fenerbahce fans as Besiktas signed three of our former players, Jeremain Lens, Caner Erkin and Gokhan Gonul, so we had to send a message."
Has there been trouble before?
A storm has seemingly been brewing between the Istanbul teams in recent years. February's derby saw Dusko Tosic sent off for headbutting Robin van Persie. The veteran striker went on to score the winning goal and proceed to goad former Arsenal teammate Oguzhan Ozyakup while sliding past on his knees in celebration. Fenerbahce turned the controversial incident into an official t-shirt.
As expected this did not go down well with Besiktas. Tosic's wife, Jelena, was outraged soon after the match. She later deleted her tweet at her husband's request and issued another tweet stating that she hates "dirty players."
The derby back in May was also heated but this time, Fenerbahce saw red. Martin Skrtel and Marcelo got themselves sent off in the 1-1 draw that pretty much ended the Yellow Canaries' title hopes.
So what happened on Saturday?
Trouble was expected after the last two meetings between these two teams and the occasion didn't disppoint. Fenerbahce fan Ilkay Aslan was in the stands and revealed there was trouble before the game even kicked off. "Caner Erkin [former Fenerbahce player] outraged Fenerbahce fans after he kneeled in respect to the Besiktas faithful before the game. He was heckled whenever he got the ball afterwards and had things thrown at him."
Tottenham fans may be surprised to discover that Vincent Janssen has hit the ground running in Turkey. After scoring on his first start with his first shot on target, he went onto win a 20th minute penalty against Besiktas. Real Madrid fans will probably not be surprised to discover Pepe was involved in giving away the spot-kick and Giuliano drew first blood, putting the home side ahead.
Ricardo Quaresma managed to pick up two yellow cards within two minutes to get himself sent off just before half-time. The conspiracy theorists were out in force, of course, as Ali Palabiyik was the same referee in charge of February's friendly. Quaresma was involved in an incident where he charged down the same referee earlier this season.
In a dramatic end to the half, Luis Neto was sent off bringing down the last man, Cenk Tosun, resulting in both sides being reduced to 10 men and Palabiyik's night wasn't about to get any better. Besiktas fans were incensed that he didn't award a penalty after the ball struck Fenerbahce midfielder Ozan Tufan's arm inside the penalty area. Alvaro Negredo then had a goal ruled offside in the second half, despite the replay showing the Spain international was just onside. Meanwhile, Besiktas manager Senol Gunes got sent to the stands for some unprintable comments made towards the referee.
Palabiyik missed another penalty shout for Besiktas after Tosun was brought down in the box by Alper Potuk. To rub further salt into the Eagles' wounds, the referee awarded Fenerbahce a second penalty in the 86th minute when the ball struck Atiba Hutchinson's hand inside the box. The Canada international was subsequently sent off and Janssen ended up converting his second goal with his second shot on target.
Besiktas fan Evren Ulusoy expressed the outrage felt by the visiting fans. "The referee ruined the game. Other than Ricardo Quaresma, most of his decisions against Besiktas were wrong. This ref cannot be allowed to officiate another game again, this is not a first, something has to be done. Enough is enough."
Just when it looked all over for nine-man Besiktas, Ryan Babel managed to pull one back after heading a cross from Negredo into the back of the net just a minute later and that wouldn't be the last of the drama, either as Ismail Koybasi was shown a direct red card for a double-footed tackle just moments later, giving the home side a nervy end to the game. Besiktas were unable to find an equaliser and tensions blew over after the final whistle, with Ozyakup managing to get himself sent off after the final whistle for criticising the referee.
The post-match reaction was just as surreal. Fenerbahce manager Aykut Kocaman cried foul about the referee, which only infuriated Besiktas further as they felt the match official penalised them. "We are capable of beating any team in the league but have no chance of defeating these refs," Kocaman said. Meanwhile, Yellow Canaries' board member Mahmut Uslu claimed that Negredo was clearly offside; Besiktas refrained from getting involved in the post-match war of words.
"Besiktas have done a good job in avoiding an escalation [of tension]. There has been no retaliation as was the case in the past few derbies. I do not think this will have much of an effect on the rest of the season as far as Besiktas is concerned: they now have the Champions League to focus on. Despite the result it still looks like the title race is between Galatasaray and Besiktas," Gokmen said.
Palabiyik took the brunt of the criticism but referees and opposition sides often struggle at the Sukru Saracoglu in big games. Galatasaray have failed to win away to Fenerbahce in this century, while Besiktas' last victory on the road was in 2005.
"I do not think it was a dirty game even though there were five red and nine yellow cards shown," said Savolainen. "This game had it all for the spectator, passion, amazing support, goals, controversy and more. It just highlighted how important the home fans can be, we put immense pressure on the referee and opposition."
Sadly, such heightened tensions spilled over to the fans. A video of Fenerbahce fans smashing up a television after Ozan Tufan missed an open goal from inside the six-yard box went viral on social media. Canaries midfielder Josef de Souza agreed to buy them a new TV as long as they promised to look after it.
Ozan Tufan'ın kaçırdığı gol sonrası bir Fenerbahçe taraftarı.pic.twitter.com/IcLP1ACAD8— Süper Lig (@TFFSuperLig) September 23, 2017
the TV Owner worries me, I'm going to give you a new TV to watch the Fenerbahce games. but do not break the next kkkkkk— Souza (@souza5) September 23, 2017
The manner of victory will be of less importance to Fenerbahce than the three points. After a shaky start to the season, the Canaries have won back-to-back games and closed the gap with leaders Galatasaray to just five points. With no European football to focus on, Fenerbahce can commit fully to the league and Kocaman is no stranger to lifting trophies.
"It was a very tough game, the referee wasn't great but it was a great result for Fenerbahce who are on a roll now. Every derby victory is great but this one feels even better knowing how important it was," Fenerbahce fan Ilkay Aslan added.
Meanwhile, Besiktas have no time to dwell on their derby debacle. The reigning champions take on Leipzig on Tuesday in the Champions League, followed by another derby against Trabzonspor next week. It's still early in the season but this could prove a pivotal week for the Eagles.
Eren Sarigul covers Turkish football for ESPN and Turkish-football.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_ErenSarigul