KLJESTAN, ANDERLECHT SEE OFF TURKS TO ADVANCE
Sacha Kljestan and Anderlecht's aggregate lead disappeared early in the second match of the Europa League group qualifier series, but they were good enough on the night to get back into the game and come away with a draw in Brussels to advance in the competition.
American midfielder Kljestan put in a 90 minute shift as Roland Juhasz and Milan Jovanovic both hit the back of the net for the Belgians.
With barely five minutes gone in Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Anderlecht's Silvio Proto was picking the ball out of his net with the realization that the Turks had tied up the game on aggregate score after the hosts had come away 2-1 winners in Turkey last week.
Anderlecht had no intention of rolling over or hanging their heads, however, and quickly went to work in hopes of restoring their lead. Front man Tom De Sutter was only just denied when Scott Carson snatched his headed attempt out of the night sky after Matias Suarez's cross just two minutes after the Turks' goal.
It was also Suarez a pair of minutes later attacking the Englishman when he struck from the top left of the 18 yard box only to see the ball whiz wide of Carson and his far post.
The former Aston Villa shot stopper had to be called upon thrice within the space of five minutes, with the latest being Guillaume Gillet taking aim at the far post after Suarez set him up but again Carson was up to the task.
Although having their share of possession in the first 25 minutes, it was the home team doing all of the threatening with the Argentine seemingly involved in all the action.
This was again the case in the 21st minute when Suarez found Gillet, who found De Sutter, who slid the ball forward for the advancing Cordoba-born number 9. Unfortunately the build-up was far more impressive than the end result as Suarez struck cross goal with the ball not troubling the defense in the least.
After the Turks had a short spell of possession in the Anderlecht third, Les Mauves broke and De Sutter was played through the middle. The Belgian international was 25 yards from goal when Ibrahim Ozturk, the last defender, dragged him to the ground. The fans hissed and booed however when Portuguese referee Jorge Moreira De Sousa only pulled out a yellow card. The ensuing free kick rattled the cross bar but was eventually cleared.
With the hosts dominating the game, left back Gokgek Vedersonr took a chance from distance but his over-zealousness only helped to propel the ball into the crowd.
As the clock reached the half hour mark Jovanovic was involved in the build up with De Sutter as the Serb found Suarez deep in Carson's box, but once again the Brit showed why he's no stranger to his national team.
Ibrahim Bangoura was off to the races when he was played down the middle and was unlucky to see Juhasz tip the ball away for a corner before he could line up a shot.
It took ten minutes before the intermission for Les Mauves to restore their aggregate lead thanks to Juhasz. After De Sutter was laid out by Ahmet Ari for a free kick in a dangerous position, Lucas Biglia delivered into the box and the Hungarian nodded it home from five yards out.
Just before the half Ari had a half chance at Proto's goal but the Belgian keeper was faster than the Turkish striker and came out to collect before the winger could pounce.
If Anderlecht started off the first half with a sense of purpose, Bursaspor did the same after the intermission, but a half chance by Bangoura was all they could produce before Jovanovic gave Anderlecht the lead.
The Liverpool flop stuck a long cross onto the chest of Behrang Safari, and the Swedish defender controlled well before blasting his shot right at Carson. This time however the Englishman couldn't hold onto it and as the ball fell to Jovanovic there was no way he was going to miss the close range shot.
At the hour mark Jovanovic picked off a poor pass, put his head down and charged goaward. As he arrived in the 18-yard box he was tripped up, looked up and expected the ref to be pointing to the spot but de Sousa was obviously having issues with his contacts and just turned away.
In the 68th minute the visitors struck again. From a 23-yard free kick smacked into the box and at Proto's far post by Pablo Martin Batalla, Milan Stepanov got the slightest of touches and sent it into the back of the Belgian net to give the guests some hope.
From playing rather comfortably, Anderlecht now had to hang on for the final 20 minutes knowing that another Turkish goal would even the aggregate score and give the visitors the away goal advantage.
Hang on they did, despite efforts by Gokgek Vedersonr and their big French midfielder Alfred N'Diaye. At the other end Les Mauves had a spell of possession around the Turkish box and when Kljestan found the ball at his feet at the top of the D and no defender pressing him, he struck a sweet shot that just cleared Carson's crossbar.
After four minutes of stoppage time, the Anderlecht fans were put out of their misery as the Portuguese ref placed the whistle to his lips and blew, signaling their team's entry into the group stages.
YA spoke to Sacha Kljestan, who was obviously happy to continue playing in European competition.
"The first ten minutes weren't great for us," the Seton Hall alumni told YA after the game. "We reacted well and had a decent first half."
"The second half wasn't so great but all that matters is the result. The result was very important. We're playing in [the Europa League] at least until December. Six more games in the group and hopefully we'll qualify for the next round. "
"Tomorrow we'll see who we'll play but most importantly, we're through."
"I think they had a little more fight to them (than in Turkey), a little more fitness," the Yank said, comparing the second contest to the first match in Turkey last week. "In the last game we were able to keep possession and tire them out."
"I think tonight we could have done a better job of keeping the ball so Lucas (Biglia) and I wouldn't have to run so much but that's the way the game went."
"It was a difficult match."
Next up for Anderlecht will be one of the biggest games on the calendar when they travel to take on Club Brugge on Sunday afternoon.