Beautiful yet chaotic city of Istanbul hosted many important sporting events in the last 10 years. The ones we can recall at a glance are the 2010 FIBA World Basketball Championships final round, the 2011 CEV Women’s Champions League final, the 2009 UEFA Cup (now UEFA Europa League) final, the 2005 UEFA Champions League final and most recently last night, the 2012 Turkish Airlines Euroleague final. As you can see, except the world basketball championships in 2010, they are all club competition events. The ones I would like to bring into focus in this article are the 2005 and 2012 versions of Champions League and Euroleague finals. That is because they both presented us with two memorable comebacks.

Many of you would still remember how the Champions League trophy of 2005 slipped away from the hands of AC Milan when Jerzy Dudek of Liverpool FC saved Andriy Shevchenko’s spot kick in the penalty shoot-out. But more importantly, you would definitely remember how that game went all the way to the penalty shoot-out. The final score after 90 minutes was 3-3. Although not an often recorded scoreline in such finals, it could still happen. However, the half time score after the first 45 minutes makes our story more dramatic. Milan was leading Liverpool 3-0 at the half on a windy day at the Istanbul Ataturk Olympic Stadium. I was watching the game on TV with a group of people and nobody gave the Merseyside Reds any chance in the second half against a tough, Italian style, Milan defense. Some friends even gave up on the game and went to the movies. Only to find out later on that it had been a terrible decision.

Captain and a true Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard was talking to his teammates before the kick-off for the second half. We do not know what exactly he was saying but almost certainly it was a team talk to get everyone motivated again so that they would all give it a one final push in order to achieve the impossible. Liverpool showed great character in the second half that night. It is true that Milan also played a terrible half and let Liverpool to achieve that comeback but one can never underestimate the remarkable efforts from Gerrard, Alonso and of course the keeper Jerzy Dudek, the hero of “Miracle of Istanbul” as Pool fans call that day. After the penalty shoot-out Liverpool had won their 5th European Cup to become the 5th club to be awarded the trophy permanently. Other clubs which had reached this honor until that day were Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Ajax and AC Milan.

Seven years after “Miracle of Istanbul”, the city witnessed another miracle like comeback last night. This time it was the “Reds” of Piraeus although they were wearing their second choice white uniforms against CSKA Moscow who had decided to wear red in the final of Turkish Airlines Euroleague, the most important basketball club competition in Europe. Olympiacos Piraeus made their way to the 2011/12 Euroleague Final Four along with their arch rivals and 2010/11 champions Panathinaikos Athens, FC Barcelona Regal and the favorites CSKA Moscow with their top class players including NBA All-Star Andrei Kirilenko and “2010 European Player of The Year” Milos Teodosic. While CSKA were considered the top favorites to grab this year’s title, nobody gave Olympiacos any chance although their season long efforts to make their way to Istanbul were highly appreciated by many. They did not have the stars other three organizations had in their rosters but they still had the important role players such as Printezis, Papanikolaou and a great leader Vassilis Spanoulis.

First, Olympiacos had to fight against a resilient Barcelona Regal in the first day of the Final Four. Barcelona were considered favorites to reach the final, yet any team playing in this year’s Final Four would be considered favorites against Olympiacos as they held the worst winning percentage among the four. Although Olympiacos could never dominate the game against Barcelona, they played just as good as their opponents and edged them 68-64 thanks to a great Spanoulis performance toward the end. We do not know if they would have preferred to face their arch rivals Panathinaikos in the final, but CSKA Moscow with their dream roster were victorious in the other semi final, beating Pana 66-64 after a close game which required a huge fightback.

However, the real fightback of the weekend was to be seen in the final. CSKA started dominating the game from the tip-off thanks to their great defensive efforts. Olympiacos tried to resist until the half time but went to the locker room trailing by 14. Things did not get any better with the start of the second half for coach Ivkovic’s men as CSKA kept controlling the game and at one point were leading by 19. But then started the comeback which would eventually lead to the second “Miracle of Istanbul”. Led by Spanoulis and with great efforts from Papanikolaou and Printezis, Olympiacos completed a miracle comeback as Printezis made the winning shot with 0.7 seconds remaining on the clock. Olympiacos reached their 2nd Euroleague title in the club history by beating the top favorites CSKA Moscow 62-61.

Finally, the second “Red” comeback which took place 7 years after the Liverpool-Milan game makes us wonder if Turkey national football or basketball teams could ever achieve such a “Red” comeback and reach the trophy in Istanbul. Keep in mind that Turkey is bidding to host the 2020 European Football Championship and there is no question about the city to host the final if the country is awarded the organization.

Category: Sports

3 Responses to One city, two red comebacks

  1. Theo says:

    … I will definitely support the Reds…

  2. Anonymous says:

    sure it is.. ;)

  3. Rodrigo says:

    Great my friend! Really good article! Hope to be there in 2020, me supporting Portugal and you Turkey! Hope to see you soon

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