By Türker Tozar at Sükrü Saraçoglu stadium
Real Zaragoza will return to Spain confident of claiming a place in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup next Thursday after a late goal from defender Alvaro defeated Fenerbahçe SK in Istanbul.
The Turkish Superleague leaders seized the initiative against Zaragoza as they looked to build on the strong finish to their UEFA Champions League campaign. But the Spanish side defended stoutly and their fluent passing game turned the momentum in their favour before Alvaro struck with 18 minutes to play.
Fenerbahçe coach Christoph Daum brought in defensive midfield player Selçuk Sahin to fill the gap created by Marco Aurélio's suspension, while in attack Nicolas Anelka started alongside the fit-again Márcio Nobre with Alex tucked in just behind to add support. Zaragoza coach Víctor Muñoz opted for a 4-5-1 formation, with David Villa as the lone striker as the Spanish side looked to attack on the break.
Defence, however, was Zaragoza's initial priority and they were fortunate not to fall behind on five minutes when an unmarked Fábio Luciano headed Selçuk Sahin's high cross wide when well placed. Fenerbahçe, confidence buoyed by their 3-0 defeat of Manchester United FC in December, failed to build on this promising start, however, and too often wasted possession which became the springboard for Zaragoza counterattacks and the home side's goal began to come under threat.
David Generelo shot first for Zaragoza on 29 minutes, but his effort from distance drifted well wide, then three minutes later Alvaro missed with a powerful header after connecting with Luciano Galletti's cross.
The Fenerbahçe midfield was struggling to keep Anelka and Nobre involved, and increasingly the front pair were forced to come deep to collect the ball. Nine minutes before half-time Anelka finally found a clear sight of goal, but two shots in quick succession were blocked as the Zaragoza defence held firm.
Daum replaced the aggressive Serkan Balci with Mehmet Yozgatli after the break, but Fenerbahçe still could not make an impression on a Zaragoza side now displaying an exemplary team ethic as they calmly passed the ball around and retained possession. The Spanish side's reward came from a well-worked free-kick on 72 minutes. An unmarked Galletti was given the time to pick out Sávio Bortolini, and though the striker missed his chance, Alvaro was on hand to apply a simple finish.
Zaragoza retreated after the goal, but the Turkish side could not force an equaliser, Alex summing up a disappointing night when he fired their best chance high and wide with six minutes remaining.