Last season’s breakout team Akhisarspor started the 2018-19 season with another surprise by defeating giants Galatasaray 5-4 via penalties to lift the Turkish Super Cup. The match, held at New Konya Stadium, saw last season’s Turkish Cup winner Akhisarspor line up against league champions Galatasaray.
After the match, Galatasaray boss Fatih Terim said, “Our current level is not sufficient for the Champions League. If this goes on, we will be disappointed in the Champions League. We have to change and will change. I congratulate Akhisarspor.”
The small Anatolian town, Akhisar, on the other hand, celebrated the victory until morning. Turkish president Erdogan and Turkish football fans around the country congratulated Akhisarspor on social media.
Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu said, “We watched a game full of competition. I congratulate Akhisarspor. This is a success story for an Anatolian town. I also believe the VAR system will help our referees in the new season.”
However, the VAR system did create a stir when the world-renowned referee Cuneyt Cakir decided to stick with his decision to give Akhisarspor’s Dany Nounkeu a yellow card and not a red for tripping Galatasaray’s Garry Rodrigues in the 44th minute, although he was warned by the VAR system.
Rodrigues seemed to be left one on one with Akhisarspor’s goalkeeper when he was tripped by Akhisarspor defender Dany. Cakır showed Dany a yellow card, deciding that it was not a “last man foul” – a foul on a running striker committed by the last man of the defense which usually results in a red card – even after watching the replay with the new VAR system.
It seems like the good times keep rolling for Akhisarspor, which managed to win its first Turkish Cup last season against another Istanbul powerhouse, Fenerbahce. Along the way, Akhisarspor also managed to eliminate Galatasaray in the semifinal.
The modest Anatolian team’s experienced coach Saffet Susic enjoyed the Turkish Cup in his very first match at the helm. After that historic win, he had said at the time, “I told my players to take the field and play the best they can. Don’t feel under pressure even if our rival is a powerhouse. They did their best and deserved to win the cup.”
About 10 years ago, Akhisarspor was only a third-tier team with a very modest budget. The team’s recent string of success, however, is all the more impressive considering Galatasaray’s top four earners are worth more than Akhisarspor’s whole squad.