Thursday, December 14, 2006

Senturk Resurrects Fenerbahce, European Hopes

Fifty-five minutes into Wednesday's game between Fenerbahce and Eintracht Frankfurt, a series of dark clouds seemed to move in and hover over Sukru Saracoglu Stadium and Kadikoy. The Yellow Canaries had just gone down 2-0 on Naohiro Takahara's second goal, and advancing into the UEFA Cup round of 32 seemed a distant dream. Fans needed not look to Allah to part the clouds, but instead the magnificent #10, Tuncay Sanli would do the first clearing with a header off of a corner in the 63rd minute to cut the lead in half. Still, nothing less than a draw would push Fener through. As time ticked away, each second more precious, the most unlikely of heroes stepped forward.

On a team of fantastic international players and some of the best footballers in Turkiye, Semih Senturk's name is rarely mentioned. When those outside of Turkiye talk about Fenerbahce, names like Mateja Kezman, Stephen Appiah, Tuncay Sanli, and Diego Lugano are often mentioned. Semih Senturk, the Izmir-born Turk, is usually left out of the conversation. However, Senturk cemented his place in Fener history with a game-tying goal in the 83rd minute Wednesday night, moving Fener into the UEFA Cup round of 32. Senturk's rocket bicycle kick from close range single-handedly cleared the dark clouds from Kadikoy.

It was a game that looked good for Fener fans from the beginning. The Canaries looked solid and Zico had a good game plan which was being executed well. Less than five minutes in, Onder Turaci nearly put the hosts up with a right-footed bullet which was just saved by Eintracht GK Markus Proll. However, a few minutes later Eintracht put in a nice cross from the wing finding Takahara for the game's first goal. The goal immediately put the crowd on edge. Fener, however, played even better. Good opportunities from Stephen Appiah, Tuncay Sanli, and Marco Aurelio were solid, but didn't find the back of the net. Early in the second half, Albert Streit sent a cross from the left that Takahara headed in for his second goal, putting Eintracht up 2-0. Fenerbahce, however, would not be denied.

Stephen Appiah had another good opportunity early after Takahara's goal, but in the 63rd minute Alex sent a cross that Tuncay headed in to cut the lead in half. Still, Fener would need another goal to continue Euro play on this night.

In stepped the unlikeliest of heroes for Fenerbahce. Semih Senturk entered the game with little fanfare in the 76th minute. Time was running out on the Canaries. Senturk, however, had an idea a goal may come from his foot this night. "My wife told me I would play in this game and score, though I didn't think I would" he said after the game. Only seven minutes into his play, Senturk would send a ball through on an overhead bicycle kick that would erupt the crowd at Sukru Saracoglu. The goal tied the game at 2-2 and deflated Eintracht. They had less than ten minutes to scramble to score or face elimination. Zico's backline immediately went into a "prevent" mode and the game's hero even secured a red card, sending him off late in the game.

Finally, it was over - Fener secured the draw to move on into the UEFA Cup round of 32. How unlikely was Senturk's goal? He had made appearances in nine Super Lig games this season, as well as two UEFA Cup games. He had failed to score in any games. "The goal came when my shot hit [fellow forward] Deivid and then I finished it off with an overhead kick. I am really happy because we never gave up. We kept fighting and got what we deserved."

The sparingly-used forward can now rest assured that his name will be mentioned throughout the world now when Fenerbahce is discussed. All it took was one goal.


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