ISTANBUL: Lyon ended the Europa League dream of Turkey’s Besiktas in an epic penalty shoot-out in Istanbul Thursday, with the French side pulling into the semi finals despite travelling with virtually no fans after first leg clashes between supporters.
With the result ending 2-1 to Besiktas on the night and 3-3 on aggregate, the match went to penalties as the clock ticked well past midnight.
Matching each other penalty for penalty until number six, Dusko Tosic saw his effort saved by Lyon’s Anthony Lopes but Christophe Jallet skied over the crossbar for Lyon.
But on number eight, Matej Mitrovic’s effort was saved for Besiktas and Maxime Gonalons then made no mistake to put Lyon through and plunge the Turks into despair.
The first leg tie last week in Lyon had been marred by angry clashes between fans that resulted in a delay to the start of the game and led to both sides receiving bans – suspended for two years – from their next European competition.
As a precaution, Lyon advised fans not to travel and only a dozen Lyon fans made the journey to Istanbul, comfortably and safely seated in the VIP section as Besiktas fans happily snapped up their seat contingent.
“What is important is to salute the Lyon team who, despite all the adversities of the last 10 days, have succeeded in an incredible story,” said Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas.
The tension was on the pitch rather than the stands as both sides scrapped energetically for the semi-final berth.
Adding further spice, the game took place days after a disputed referendum in Turkey that has led to daily protests in the Besiktas district of the city, a well known opposition hub.
Carrying a 1-2 deficit into the home leg but with the crucial away goal, Besiktas could count on the fanatical support of some 40,000 of its famously passionate fans.
Roared on by the packed Vodafone Arena on the shores of the Bosphorus just opposite a former palace for Ottoman Sultans, Besiktas drew first blood as Brazilian Talisca scored after a corner in the 27th minute.
But Lyon’s highly regarded Alexandre Lacazette equalised 10 minutes later with an exquisite chip over Fabricio in the Besiktas goal.
Lacazette nearly put the game beyond Besiktas’ reach after the break, hitting the woodwork with a pearl of a shot and watching the ball cross across the goal.
Causing near pandemonium in the stadium, Talisca pulled Besiktas level on aggregate with a powerful header that beat the stranded Lopes in the Lyon goal on the 57th minute.
In a heart-stopping end to normal time, Besiktas’ Ricardo Quaresma hit the outside post with a daring angled shot and Ryan Babel failed with the rebound. For Lyon, Lacazette hit the crossbar.
Besiktas had the running for most of the extra time but failed to convert chances. Fabricio denied Lyon’s Corentin Tolisso with a spectacular one handed save.
Besiktas has branded the sanction levied by UEFA for the fighting last week as “scandalous” while Lyon said that it was fair.
At the tie in France, up to 20,000 Turkish fans, the majority living in France or Germany, were intermingled among the 35,000 supporters of Lyon on top of the 3,000 fans from Istanbul situated in the visitors’ section.
But clearly aware they were under the microscope, Besiktas fans put on a blemish-free display at the Vodafone Arena, which was opened in 2016.
The November 1993 clash between Istanbul’s Galatasaray and Manchester United – when Turkish fans welcomed the English team with “Welcome to Hell” banners – is still remembered but Turkish football bosses like to think fan behaviour has moved on since then. --AFP