One of the most glorious days in Turkish football, Beşiktaş beat Porto in a decisive away game last Wednesday. From the first to the final whistle, the Turkish side was in control of the game, and Porto could not establish dominance to break through Beşiktaş's counter-attacking game.
As I pointed out before the game, individual talents made the difference, and Ricardo Quaresma's great assist to Anderson Talisca and Cenk Tosun's guided missile from 30 meters put Beşiktaş in a one goal lead before the first half whistle. Then, unlike predictions, Porto could not gear up their game and eventually dropped out of the game, which led to Beşiktaş's third goal as a result of great teamwork.
First of all, I did not expect Porto to be so unprepared against Beşiktaş's controlled counter-attacking game. They could not find a way to open up Beşiktaş's defense and their imbalanced offensive strategy, which was based on catching their opponents off-guard, collapsed within the first 20 minutes.
The reason why Porto could not have played their original quick counter-attacking game was simple, Beşiktaş coach Şenol Güneş prepared his team to defend with six men, who were ordered not to leave their positions no matter what. Thus, whenever Porto attacked in a premature manner, they crashed into the huge wall Güneş built against them. If, as I advised in my last piece, they had chosen a dominant strategy, Beşiktaş would have been forced to defend with 10 players, ultimately destroying the Turkish side's offensive efficiency.
On the other hand, I salute Beşiktaş's four forward players, Ryan Babel, Anderson Talisca, Cenk Tosun and Ricardo Quaresma. They utilized the space Porto left for them incredibly efficiently, and their choices were mostly spot on. As Oğuzhan Özyakup and Atiba Hutchinson in front of the defense, and center-back Pepe, constantly sent the ball forward without losing time, Porto's defense was forced to sit deep. The Portuguese side did not understand that they had to fight fire with fire.
Nevertheless, although Beşiktaş showed a great defensive and offensive effort against Porto, I am not completely satisfied with the game they played, considering the rest of the group stage. Between 30th and 60th minutes, Beşiktaş made lots of unnecessary long balls when they should have stayed more in control. By that time, the team had spent so much energy on defending fiercely and attacking quickly that after the first 30 minutes they needed a period of mundane passing circulations around the middle. Rather, they sent every long ball forward into the Porto defense to create offensive continuity, but the Portuguese leaders refused this generous offer given they were shocked by the performance of Beşiktaş.
However, in order to assure long-term success, coach Şenol Güneş must integrate this pool of individual talent into a more talented game. The days will come where individual talent will not work or opponents will not let them work, it is the most natural process in football. But what makes a team truly successful is the ability to take themselves out of this tough situation by the means of their game. As I have always said, Beşiktaş must rely on the power of their collective action first, and Ricardo Quaresma's feet second.
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