Pinni Balili made a dream start to his career in Turkey yesterday, scoring the opening goal in Istanbulspor's 3-0 away win over Fenerbahce. Balili, who moved to the Turkish club from Hapoel Tel Aviv over the summer, scored after 18 minutes, sending the 55,000 home crowd into shock. Bulgaria's Iordanov added two goals for Istanbulspor in the 30th and 50th minutes.
"In the 18th minute, I received a through ball from the defense. I don't remember whether there were one or two Fenerbahce players marking me, but I think I nudged the ball down with my chest and burst toward the Fener goalmouth," Balili said.
"I saw Fenerbahce `keeper Robert Enke coming out toward me. I let loose a shot from 25 meters out and saw the ball fly into the net. It was an incredible feeling. The packed stadium, which until then hadn't stopped singing and throwing flares, suddenly went silent. When all my teammates started hugging me, I felt exactly how everyone remembers Haim Revivo when he scored his goals in Turkey."
Balili, who was posted as lone striker at the expense of Elvir Boljic, was among the most dominant players on the field, before being substituted in the 79th minute.
"Before the game, when the stadium was packed and looked like hell, coach Aykut Kocaman took me out onto the field to feel the atmosphere," Balili recalled. ""He told me not to be afraid and said that I would score my first goal."
Balili said that defender Uche, who played for Fenerbahce in the past had told him that the home team would be sure that they were heading for an easy victory and that Istanbulspor needed to play on the counter attack.
Balili, who was chosen as man of the match alongside Iordanov, left Istanbul for Israel last night immediately after the game to attend his son's brit milah.
Kocaman said after the game that he was extremely pleased with the performance of his players. "We played an excellent game. We had three chance in the first half and managed to score with two of them," Kocaman said.
Afek targeted by Turkish clubs
Meanwhile, another former Hapoel Tel Aviv striker, Omri Afek, is reported to be in the sights of a number of Turkish clubs, including Balili's Istanbulspor. The club's Cameroon `keeper was released last week, making room for another foreign player to be signed.
Another club said to be interested in Afek's services is Ankaragucu, whose coach Tevfik Lav came up against the player two years ago with Gaziantepspor, which was knocked out of the UEFA Cup by Hapoel Tel Aviv. Fenerbahce has also expressed an interest in the player and will view a video tape of Afek's performances.
In any event, Afek's agent is also trying to hook the player up with an English First Division side.
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