Turkish League Wrap 8 – VAR Mayhem In The Super Lig Rescues Fenerbahce A Point, Donk Saves Galatasaray

KERKRADE, NETHERLANDS - JANUARY 15: Eljero Elia of Feyenoord Rotterdam in action during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Roda JC and Feyenoord Rotterdam held at Parkstad Limburg Stadion on January 15, 2017 in Kerkrade, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

The Super Lig Round 8 was thoroughly entertaining as ever. The big talking point was not a player, manager or team. Instead, VAR stole the spotlight.

Fenerbahce were held to a goalless draw against Basaksehir at the Sukru Saracoglu stadium in a controversial Istanbul derby which was marred by VAR malfunctioning.

The Yellow Canaries headed into the clash hovering around the relegation zone on 7 points alongside 16th placed Rizespor after a dismal start to the season.

Recently appointed head coach Phillip Cocu had alleviated some pressure following their mid week victory over Trnava in the Europa League but Basaksehir posed a far bigger test.

The once upon Istanbul minnows have become regular title contenders over the past few seasons and went into the game third in the league table.

The derby was evenly posed with neither side able to break the deadlock until Elia put the ball in the back of the net on 82 minutes.

Referee Ali Palabiyik quickly ruled out the goal after linesman Serkan Cimen flagged for offside.

The Super Lig did however, introduce VAR technology. Contentious decisions are supposed to go through a review process.

However, VAR went offline at the time due to a technical malfunction. Basaksehir’s protests fell on deaf ears however, the replay showed Elia was clearly onside. Had the system been working as it should have the goal would have been given.

Basaksehir head coach Abdullah Avci kept his cool: “We were unlucky VAR did not work for us today or we would have won. I think this is the first time something like this has happened.”

Elia made his thought clear immediately afterwards, crying foul play on Twitter.

This was followed by the official Basaksehir Twitter account sharing a clip of the incident alongside the message: Kötü niyet VAR! Which translates to; “There was bad intent” – var having a double meaning, as it means ‘there is/was’ in Turkish .

Basaksehir president Goksel Gumusdag was more diplomatic and used the incident to defend VAR. “We saw what kind of decisions are made when VAR goes down for just three minutes. After the game I went to the dressing room, Elia was in tears, a great goal had been wrongfully disallowed. I am confused and deeply disappointed,” he said. “We strongly criticise linesman Serkan Cimen for disallowing the goal. This disgraceful decision cannot be accepted in any way, shape or form.”

Gumusdag played an important role in introducing VAR to the Super Lig during his time as president of the Super Lig Club Union [Kulüpler Birliği] between 2014-17.

“I made the case to use VAR to the Turkish Football Federation and refereeing committee [MHK]. We all saw what happens when VAR does not work. It’s a joke, I am not going to say anymore. If you saw how devastated the players were you would understand. All we can do is show you the mistake that was made,” he added.

Faith in refereeing was already at an all time low in Turkey. Match officials are constantly undermined by club officials, team staff and the media. It is commonplace for football programs to mull over ever contentious incident, often for hours, with guilt usually being placed with the officators. Years of criticism created a toxic environment. Referees have been attacked. The refereeing committee is not trusted. Clubs often claim there is a conspiracy against them which feeds down to the media and fans, making the refs job incredibly difficult.

The debate over VAR will continue to be a contentious issue. As far as Turkey is concerned I am of the belief it is a necessity to restore public perception that there is justice in match officiating. The technology is clearly going through teething problems. It is imperative that lessons are learned from errors and that usage of the system improves with time. VAR has not been completely undermined in Turkey but if these mistakes continue we could end up with a rage against the machines. VAR could end up replacing referees as the new bogeyman of the Super Lig.  

Defenders Upfront

Galatasaray decided to sell their star striker Bafetimbi Gomis and not replace him this summer. Probably not the wisest decision! Head coach Fatih Terim was left so disappointed by his one remaining forward Sinan Gumus that he flung two defenders upfront late in the second half against Antalyaspor. Ryan Donk and Maicon. Low and behold it turned out to be a tactical masterstroke as Donk scored a late winner.

Chaos In Konya

The match kicked off in the aftermath of the U21 Konyaspor side attacking the U21 Besiktas team before the game.

Tensions were high heading into the clash and it did not take long for the drama to spill over onto the field.

Domagoj Vida was send off for handling the ball in the box.

There was Liverpool loanee little Loris Karius could do about the penalty which was converted by Yatabare.

Things almost got worse in the second half when Konyaspor were awarded another penalty but this time Yatabare missed.

Besiktas managed to mount a miraculous comeback against Konyaspor scoring twice on 79 and 80 mins thanks to Vagner Love and Ryan Babel, respectively.

The drama was not over as Konyaspor scored a dramatic equalizer in the fourth minute of additional time.

Nevertheless, a 2-2 draw away to Konyaspor on the road is by no means a bad result.

Trabzonspor & Elsewhere

Trabzonspor continued their rise with a 3-1 win over reigning Turkish Cup champions Akhisar. The Black Sea based side are now 5th and just five points behind leaders Galatasaray. Dark Horses perhaps!

Elsewhere Malatyaspor and Sivasspor were involved in a crazy 4-4 draw. Kasimpasa moved into second place with a 3-1 home victory over Goztepe. Old friends Bursaspor and Ankaragucu met. The Green Crocodiles emerged 1-0 winners. Meanwhile Erzurumspor put an end to Alanyaspor’s four game win streak with a 1-0 victory at home.