The Trabzonspor-Fenerbahçe clash Sunday was undoubtedly the most hyped Süper Lig match so far this season. But to understand what played out on the field, we need to divide it into three separate acts. I think two critical choices made by the managers, Abdullah Avcı and Vitor Pereira, had direct effects on the first half, and the first 24 minutes, in particular.
Avcı has played only one defensive midfielder, Berat Özdemir, throughout this season while using five attackers in front of him. In his first game without Marek Hamsik, everyone thought Emmanouil Siopis would start beside Özdemir. We were wrong. Avcı did not dial down his attacking strategy and faced Fenerbahçe with five forwards.
I think he won his award not just for the way his side played against a 10-man Fenerbahçe, but also for the 20 minutes it trailed the Istanbul powerhouse 0-1.
For Fenerbahçe, Pereira's defensive setup in the absence of Serdar Aziz was interesting, to say the least. The defensive trio of Filip Novak, Kim Min-jae and Attila Szalai was present against Hatayspor and Olympiakos, with Novak playing in the right, Kim taking the center and Szalai securing the left flank.
However, the Portuguese coach’s intention behind playing the same trio in different positions on Sunday was not entirely clear. I think Kim's inexperience on the right led to his red card in the 23rd minute. Shortly afterward, Trabzon midfielder Anastasios Bakasetas’ goal in the 24th minute opened a new chapter in the match.
Pereira corrected the defensive placement after the card. Szalai switched from the center to his usual position on the left and Novak moved to the right, while the Mesut Özil-Diego Rossi duo approached Miguel Crespo and defended the score by lining up as a 5-3-1 for the remainder of the match. Between the 45th and 75th minute, the game was relatively balanced with both sides affected by injuries and breaks.
However, Pereira relinquished complete control to Avcı with two changes in the 75th minute and the one-sided third act began.
The libero in the last 15 minutes was Marcel Tisserand. Pereira almost turned his side into an eight-player defensive block, with the central trio of Luiz Gustavo, Miguel Crespo and Jose Sosa. With only one forward in Serdar Dursun, the Yellow Canaries did not have much chance to keep the ball further ahead on the pitch. The result was a continuous bombardment of Trabzonspor attacks for 20 minutes that eventually brought two goals and a victory for Avcı.
Avcı deserves a big congratulation not just for the win, but also for his side’s performance so far. He makes brave choices in the starting 11 and is never satisfied with a draw. With every change, with every substitution, he lets his players know whether he is happy with the score or not. He has every right to enjoy the well-deserved lead.