After Galatasaray's failure in the Champions League, the Turkish sport world has found solace in the triumphs of Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş in the UEFA Europa League. Fenerbahçe exacted some revenge upon deposed Norwegian champions Molde in Group A, but a late Ajax goal against Celtic means the Turkish side will now have to wait until match day six to discover whether they will reach the round of 32. Amid torrential rain in Norway, Molde won the first half in terms of chances, striking five on target to Fenerbahçe's three. The best chance was a long-range strike from 18-year-old forward Sander Svendsen that clanked off the Yellow Canaries' crossbar.
However, Fenerbahçe had a point to prove after their 3-1 home loss to Molde on match day one and took the lead in the second half when Fernandao scored on a header. Mohamed Elyounoussi spearheaded Molde's comeback attempt and would have scored on a late strike if it weren't for Fabiano's superb save.
There was to be no equalizer, though, and Fenerbahçe extended their advantage after a powerful forward thrust. Horvath saved another shot from Fernandao later on, but the ball squirmed away, inviting Ozan Tufan to place it into the unguarded net and put Fenerbahçe up by two. Volkan Şen also hit the post on a shot before the hosts' Knut Olav Rindaroy was dismissed in added time. Molde have already qualified for the knockout phase, yet must avoid defeat at Ajax next time out to be sure of topping the section.
Fenerbahçe coach Vitor Pereira talked assertively after the match, saying: "Fenerbahçe will finish the Super League as champions. Also, we will go forward as far as we can in the Europa League. Our team is improving match by match. It has been going on since the last six matches. We gave Molde a very difficult match despite playing on their home turf. We hope to advance from the group as leaders."
Responding to questions on why Robin van Persie did not play, Pereira responded by saying: "I talked to him before the match. I said it would not be prudent for him to play on artificial turf. It would be more prudent for a player like Fernandao, who is physically stronger, to play on artificial turf. He respected my decision. He only thinks about how to benefit Fenerbahçe because we are a team and Van Perise is a part of it."
As for Beşiktaş, Cenk Tosun struck twice, as the Black Eagles moved to the top of Group H and ensured their visitors' adventure will not extend into 2016. Tosun scored a goal in each half to take Beşiktaş to the top of UEFA Europa League Group H and call time on Skenderbeu's maiden group stage campaign. Cenk set up Jose Sosa for the winner when the sides met on match day one and was the architect of the Albanian champions' downfall. Late in the first half he connected with İsmail Köybaşı's cross from the left and beat Skenderbeu's 38-year-old goalkeeper Orges Shehi. It was their first attempt on target and allowed the Black Eagles to change gear; thereafter, they were happy to play a mid-tempo paced game and hit the brakes, bringing Ricardo Quaresma into the mix. The plan worked well.
Cenk came close to getting his second goal on the counterattack, sending the simplest of tap-ins wide after Dusko Tosic found him unmarked in the box. He made no such mistake in the 78th minute. Gökhan Töre cut in from the left and found Quaresma unmarked on the opposite flank, and he fed the ball back into the center for Cenk to finish. The forward rose to the occasion to justify coach Şenol Güneş's decision to leave Mario Gomez on the bench. Cenk scored twice, but it should have been a hat trick as the 24-year-old missed an easy chance.
Albania's first squad to compete in the UEFA group stage will finish at the bottom of Group H, yet have nothing to be ashamed of and could have caused Beşiktaş more problems. Hamdi Salihi fired high and wide early on, and Tolga Zengin needed to be alert to deny Liridon Latifi an equalizer.
Beşiktaş would have gone a whole year without scoring more than once in a European game had Cenk not doubled up. Before tonight, they had gone nine matches since registering more than a single goal in a European match. The last time they scored more than two goals in a game was a 2-2 draw against Asteras on Nov. 27, 2014.
Beşiktaş coach Güneş said: "We play better than our rivals, but gave away too much. If you waste the positions you find in Europa League your opponent may make you pay for it heavily. We will work hard to overcome this deficiency."