For the first time in 20 years, the 2008 Turkish Cup final would not feature at least one of Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Trabzonspor, but there was reason aplenty to believe Kayserispor and Genclerbirligi would serve up a thriller. Seven of the last eight Turkish Cup deciders had produced at least four goals, including Galatasaray’s 5-3 reverse of Antalyspor in 2000 and Besiktas’s 3-2 win over Fenerbahce six years later; Kayserispor had been characterised by adventurous football since former coach Tamer Kaptan based their style on the Rinus Michels brainchild of ‘Total Football’ in the 1970s, while Genclerbirligi had become renowned being on both ends of thrashings; and both teams fielded attack-conscious starting XIs.
Much of the pre-match talk had focused on Genclerbirligi’s Brazilian striker Kahe and Argentinian playmaker Franco Cangele of Kayserispor, but another two foreigners would steal their thunder. The Ankara outfit’s Chilean goalkeeper Nicolas Peric proved indomitable, while his counterpart in the Kayseri side’s gloves, Bulgarian Dimitar Ivankov, made a series of fine saves, including one acrobatic stop from Kahe, to ensure the contest finished goalless.
Penalties would decide whether Genclerbirligi, playing in their fifth final, lifted the trophy for the third time, or whether Kayserispor won the fixture at the first attempt.
First up it was goalkeeper against goalkeeper. Peric and Ivankov shared a bit of banter as they strolled towards the box, but once there the latter, nicknamed El Loco (The Crazy One) attempted to put the kick-taker off by stretching in front of him and then swinging on the crossbar. It did not work against Ivankov, who habitually kept his eyes closed until the last moment before making his run-up and duly made it 1-0 to Kayserispor. Mehmet Cakir immediately equalised, before both teams scored their second penalty, missed their third, and netted their next three.
At 5-5, in sudden death, Kayserispor’s Austrian utility man Turgay Bahadır saw his penalty turned away by Peric, presenting Egyptian Abdel Zaher El-Saqua with the chance to win it for Genclerbirligi. Ivankov, though, made a superb one-handed save to deny him.
The following ten penalties were all successfully dispatched – including Ivankov making it two out of two in the shootout – before up stepped Kayserispor holding midfielder Alioum Saidou, the memory of an agonising sudden-death shootout defeat rumbling through his mind as he made the long, lonely walk from the centre-circle to the penalty area. The Cameroonian had made no mistake from 12 yards during a CAF Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final against Côte d'Ivoire in 2006, only to see Samuel Eto’o, of all people, blaze his attempt over the bar and Didier Drogba, with his second spot-kick of the shootout, subsequently snatch the Ivorians a 12-11 victory. Unfortunately for Saidou, his strike went high and wide, sparking celebration among the Genclerbirligi players.
All Ergun Teber needed to do was score against his former club, and past his former team-mate, and the Ankara Ruzgarı (The Wind of Ankara) were champions. Ivankov, however, flung himself south-east and masterfully held Teber’s strike.
Centre-back Aydın Toscalı then sent Peric the wrong way to make it Kayserispor 11-10 Genclerbirligi. It left Mehmet Cakir needing to score to keep alive his team’s chances, but they were uplifted by their enthralling 17-16 shootout victory over Galatasaray in the 1996/97 Turkish Cup. This time, however, Genclerbirligi encountered an insurmountable obstacle in Ivankov, who dived left and repelled the ball with his knee.
“What a performance,” enthused Kayserispor coach Tolunay Kafkas of Ivankov. “He did it all. It was so nerve-wracking, they just needed to score one penalty to win it – twice! But [Ivankov] has nerves of steel.”
Scoring two penalties may have been little to the man who today has netted 42 in open play – he sits third on the list of the highest-scoring goalkeepers in history behind Rogerio Ceni and Jose Luis Chilavert – but to do so in such a tense shootout in which he also saved four spot-kicks is something that may never be repeated.