Photo credit: Ahmet Kanka
As Eski, Cider, Ahmet and Apple Kanka walked into the stadium we were all handed leaflets by the police telling us to "kick violence out of sport". As it turned out, though, they should have given them out to the players... Someone was knocked over with varying degrees of footballing justification every few minutes, and the stretcher-bearers ended up getting more exercise than the goalies!
That isn't to say that the match itself was ugly. Ankaragücü have been working out new tactics since the winter break, and the result is a much more flowing, attacking game than before. Today, Ankaragücü were unlucky to be held to a draw by the top team in the league. It says a lot for the players and the coaches that today's team, while weaker on paper than it was at the beginning of the season, was playing a damn sight better on grass and mud.
And we should have won. Ankaragücü seemed very slightly the better team throughout most of the first half, and we had brief glimpses of Super League quality in some of the second half attacks. Our attacking style made us vulnerable to counter-attack, but Gökhan made some great saves where needed. In the 56th minute, four Ankaragücü men came flat and spaced out through the Bandırmaspor defence. There was one well-timed pass, then a second, and suddenly Teoman was one on one with the Bandırmaspor keeper, and kept his head to pass the ball into the back of the net. Gorgeous play! In the 5 minutes that followed, Bandırma were rattled, and Ankaragücü were able to mount three more dangerous attacks on the Bandırma goal, but to no avail.
At this point, Bandırma increased their physical game still further, sometimes even leaving Ankaragücü players on the ground a long way from the ball. The referee blew for some of the offences, but the more frequently they occurred, the less happy he was about stopping play. A certain Kanka of the Caledonian variety began to sound increasingly like a character from a Tarantino movie in response to the referee's decisions.
Then, in the 72nd minute, an Ankaragücü player was brought down in the Bandırmaspor box. The referee paused, and then brought out a yellow for diving, to which the aforementioned Kanka loudly made clear his dissent.
In the 75th minute, the mirror image. A Bandırmaspor player brought down in a challenge at the edge of the Ankaragücü box, and this time the ref makes sure not to repeat his mistake. The penalty was shot straight forward as Gökhan dived left, and Bandırma had equalised.
The score was a disappointment, but the game brought us hope. Whereas a few matches ago an unfortunate result would have brought about post-game angst over the closeness of the relegation zone, this one prompted grumbling about how we're squandering our chances of reaching the playoffs. The difference isn't our league position: we now look much more like a playoffs team (albeit 12 points behind with 11 matches to go, one in hand) than a team fighting relegation, and if we can play like this for the rest of the season, we might just have a chance.