Turkey maintained their 100 per cent home record with a 3-2 victory against a spirited F.Y.R Macedonia in UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying Group 7 - but they had to come from behind twice before securing all three points.
The home side were made to work hard for the win in Istanbul's Inönü stadium - particularly in the first half - but turned on the style after the break and comprehensively outplayed the Macedonians in the latter stages.
Internazionale FC's Emre Belözoglu almost opened the scoring as early as the second minute when his free-kick from the left caught goalkeeper Petar Milosevski by surprise and was punched away for a corner.
F.Y.R. Macedonia, however, were far from intimidated and Sašo Lazarevski's incisive forays down the left flank caused concern throughout. The winger provided the away team's first chance, bursting clear to curl in a cross which Aco Stojkov headed over. He went one better in the 23rd minute, crossing for Vlatko Grozdanov to drill in at the far post.
Turkey, though, equalised within seconds of the restart. Real Sociedad forward Nihat Kahveci collected a short pass from the inspirational Emre and cut across the area to strike a shot which ricocheted in off the underside of the bar. But before the home team could recompose themselves, they were behind again, Aco Stojkov breaking clear on the right and overpowering his marker to clip a ball across the face of goal for Artim Sakiri to bundle in.
It was imperative that Turkey seized control from the start of the second period and coach Senol Günes must have been delighted when his side equalised just three minutes after the interval, gaining the impetus they would need to win the match. Hakan Sükür did well to hold off several defenders inside the box and laid the ball on for Gökdeniz Karadeniz to poke past Milosevski.
The hosts were now wholly in command and Sükür showed his predatory instincts in the 59th minute when he scored what proved to be the winning goal, latching on to a ball clipped into the box by Nihat and volleying into the bottom left-hand corner. From then on, the result was never in doubt and Turkey were unlucky not to collect a fourth goal in the dying moments, substitute Deniz Baris prodding just wide following a flowing move from deep inside his own half.
Turkey will hope to collect three points from their trip to face Liechtenstein on 6 September, the same day the Macedonian's are set to play undefeated England in what will be key encounters in deciding the group.