Galatasaray back on top

The SuperLig title race had not been this exciting since the 2005-2006 season, when Fenerbahce slipped up on the final day, only managing a 1-1 draw against Denizlispor while arch rivals Galatasaray beat Kayserispor 3-0 at home to secure the silverware. Fenerbahce got their own back last year, winning the title with a nine-point cushion over Besiktas while Galatasaray were back in third.

The 2007-2008 season turned out to be a real treat for Turkish football fans, with three teams in with a shout of the title right up until two games from the end. Sivasspor were the surprise package and actually topped the table half-way through the season, by which time all teams had played each other once. They were sitting pretty ahead of the three Istanbul clubs, namely Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas, and the whole country was wondering whether Sivasspor would be able to maintain their pace into the second half of the season.

The answer was yes, more or less. Sivasspor continued to play well but there were two clubs who managed to make significant improvements on their performances in the first half of the season and haul the new boys in. Sivasspor nevertheless finished third in the league and earned a UEFA Cup berth.

Defence wins championships
Reigning champions Fenerbahce scored the most goals this season with 72, but this merely proved the old maxim that 'attacks wins games, defence wins championships'. Coach Zico's team still boasted the league's two top scorers, with Turkish international Semih Senturk, who had come up through the youth ranks at the club, winning the honorary title with 17 goals ahead of his team-mate Alex.

The Brazilian, who was voted footballer of the year back home in 2003 and was last season's top scorer in Turkey, managed 14 goals as Fenerbahce reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League and finished second in the league. Deivid and Mateja Kezman each chipped in another 11 goals to the cause.

However, this was not enough for Canaries. One team outdid them, scoring the most points in the second half of the season, conceding the fewest goals and sporting the best away record. A 2-0 win on Sunday over promoted club Genclerbirligi Oftas was enough to give Galatasaray the 17th league title of their history and a place in the Champions League along with runners-up Fenerbahce.

Different coach, same results
Incredibly, German Karl-Heinz Feldkamp stepped down as coach only a few weeks before the end of the season, but the team did not lose sight of their main aim. If anything, the Lions took their performances to a higher level at the business end of the season and were very much worthy champions.

Interim coach Cevat Guler showed great tactical nous in the way he adapted his team to neutralise their various opponents. He steered them to a 1-0 win at home to Fenerbahce two matches before the end of the season followed by a spectacular 5-3 away win at Sivasspor that all but guaranteed the Cim Bom were going to get their hands on the title again.

Galatasaray's back line won them the championship this time around, conceding only 23 goals in 34 matches, but this is not to say that there were no fireworks up front. Umit Karan and Shabani Nonda each scored 11 goals, while 36-year-old veteran Hakan Sukur also chipped in with 10.

Delight and despair
The relegation spots were decided two matches before the end of the season, with Vestel Manisaspor, Caykur Rizespor and Kasimpasaspor all failing to avoid the drop.

Replacing them will be Kocaelispor and Antalyaspor who finished first and second respectively in the TFF 1. Lig, with the third spot still up for grabs from among the next four teams in the league who will contest the play-offs over the coming weeks.