Today’s draw paired Beşiktaş against French runners-up Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon) in the last eight of the UEFA Europa League Cup. Turkey’s Süper Lig champions went through after a pulsating game against Greek champions Olympiacos in Istanbul last night.
After drawing 1:1 in Athens last Thursday, the Turkish side were in the driving seat for the return leg at the Vodafone Arena. Beşiktaş started well, scoring twice in 22 minutes through Aboubaka, a header in the 10th minute, and Babel with a strike from the edge of the box. Against the run of play, the visitors pulled one back on 31 minutes, Elyounoussi’s acrobatic volley deflecting off defender Adriano to make it 2:1.
The game then took a dramatic twist, as the referee sent off Beşiktaş’s top scorer Aboubaka in the 39th minute for violent conduct in an off-the-ball incident. Facing 10 men, Olympiacos pressed home their advantage, but despite numerous attempts on goal they were unable to add to their tally.
Spurred on by a 42,000 capacity crowd, who regularly burst into renditions of İzmir Marşı (patriotic song about Turkey’s victory during the War of Independence), Beşiktaş pushed forward often and capitalised on their chances. Dutch player Ryan Babel (pictured above) grabbed his second of the game with a sweet strike from the edge of the box that went through the goalie’s fingers.
The Turks wrapped up the game six minutes from time after a slick one-two between Souza Conceição and substitute striker Tosun, who coolly chipped Nicola Leali to make it 4.1 to Beşiktaş and 5:2 on aggregate. It marked a miserable end for the Italian goalkeeper and his Olympiacos team mates, as the Turks celebrated to the sounds of Sirtaki – a traditional Greek folk song.
Beşiktaş reach the quarter-final stage for only the third time in their history. Their first leg match against Lyon will take place in France on Thursday 13 April, with the return leg in Istanbul a week later on Thursday 20 April.
The other remaining teams in the draw are Ajax (Holland), Anderlecht (Belgium), Celta Vigo (Spain), FC Schalke (Germany), KRC Genk (Belgium) and Manchester United (England).