Thanks to Özcan’s dream pass: Montella’s debut as Turkey coach is a success

In the first game after Stefan Kuntz, Turkey managed an important victory in Croatia under new coach Vincenzo Montella.

Salih Özcan (left) follows Josip Brekalo.

Salih Özcan (left) follows Josip Brekalo.

AFP via Getty Images

For Vincenzo Montella, who succeeded Stefan Kuntz, his first game as Turkish national coach was in Croatia for the top game in qualifying Group D. On the second matchday, Turkey lost 2-0 at home when they met again in Osijek, Croatia The guests, who had weakened substitutes – Hoffenheim’s Kabak was missing, among others – got off to a good start straight away.

After two minutes, Yilmaz tested keeper Livakovic’s flying skills, as did Aktürkoglu shortly afterwards (9th). Croatia, which had to do without the injured Kramaric (muscular problems) and Perisic (torn cruciate ligament) on the offensive (ex-Wolfsburg Brekalo played, among other things), appeared to be disorganized at times against the Turks, who were always quick to switch gears. Leverkusen’s Stanisic was lucky that Livakovic corrected his positional error after a long hit from keeper Cakir against Aktürkoglu (13th).

The third-placed team in the World Cup was hardly dangerous in their own offensive; it took until the third minute of stoppage time in the first half before Musa fired a harmless low shot right at Cakir.

Özcan’s through ball takes the lead

At this point it was already 0:1. After a bad pass from Brekalo, Dortmund’s Özcan tore a path into the home defense with a long pass. Gvardiol was too far away from Yilmaz and Livakovic came out of his goal too early. The Galatasaray striker lifted the ball over the keeper to make it 1-0 (30th).

After the break, Croatia became a little more powerful, but Modric and Co. were initially unable to create any real danger. Turkey remained more determined, missing further chances from Yilmaz (54th) and Irfan Can (62nd).

Croatians are getting stronger

Only when Wolfsburg’s Majer and the ailing Petkovic came into play in Croatia did the World Cup third place become more dangerous. Bardakci blocked a Kovacic shot just in front of the line (66th), Petkovic narrowly missed a shot twice (68th, 70th).

Substitute Beljo had the best opportunity. The ball fell at Augsburg’s feet in the penalty area, but the shot went too centrally to Cakir (81′). Shortly afterwards, Akgün left the final decision to Livakovic (84th).

VAR announces the penalty whistle

So Turkey went into the last few minutes with the narrow lead – and that’s where things got tricky again. After a corner, referee Anthony Taylor initially decided on a handball by Calhanoglu (90th). After looking at the pictures, the referee realized that Calhanoglu had been hit on the shoulder by teammate Akaydin.

So it remained with Montella’s not undeserved debut victory as Turkish national coach. This means that Turkey takes the lead in Group D. On Sunday, the Turks await Latvia (8.45 p.m.), while Croatia will be visiting Wales at the same time.

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