St Johnstone’s “phenomenal result” away to Galatasaray gives the Perth side hope of progressing in the Europa League, says manager Callum Davidson.
Davidson’s men surrendered a one-goal lead against the 10-man hosts after Sacha Boey’s quick leveller cancelled out Jason Kerr’s penalty.
But the away side held on resolutely to earn a memorable draw in Turkey.
“I’m delighted to come to Istanbul and get a result against a fantastic team like Galatasaray,” Davidson said.
“We know it’s just the first game. Galatasaray will come at us, they have a lot of talented footballers, but we need to make sure we’re ready and give ourselves a chance to get a result in the game and make it difficult for them.”
The game did not take place in Galatasaray’s iconic Turk Telekom Arena due to renovation works, but St Johnstone were still greeted by a cauldron of colour and noise at the Basaksehir Fatih Terim Stadium.
Callum Davidson’s men showed no signs of intimidation, though, as double cup final goalscoring hero Shaun Rooney was halted after an early rampaging run up the right.
Galatasaray’s European journey came to an end against Scottish opposition in the qualifying stage last season – losing 2-1 to Rangers.
But this is still a club that have played Champions League group-stage football in six of the last nine seasons, and it showed as the tie could have been out sight in the first 10 minutes.
First, Aytac Kara first saw a cross break to Mostafa Mohamed, who lashed over from close range. Then Kara again delivered from the right, and this time the impressive Kerem Akturkoglu rattled the base of the left-hand post.
Zander Clark was on hand moments later to parry away a Marcao header, and it felt a matter of when, not if, the hosts would score.
But out of nowhere a chance for the Perth side, as Rooney’s long throw broke to Murray Davidson, whose well-struck half volley was smothered by Muslera.
The home side kept coming, though, with the dangerous Akturkoglu twice squeezing his way to the bye-line but watching two tempting crosses evade his fellow forwards.
But the Perth club continued to throw punches. This time a fantastic run from Ali McCann resulted in a pass to David Wotherspoon, who made a yard from himself but tamely struck low into the arms of Muslera.
The home side maintained pressure, getting joy down the sides of St Johnstone’s back three, and started the second half on the front foot as Berkan Kutlu failed to divert a Boey cross on target.
But at 0-0 the visitors always had a chance, and that is exactly what they were handed when Kane dispossessed Muslera after he made a meal of dealing with a back pass. The goalkeeper tugged back the striker, leaving the referee no option but to point to the spot and brandish the red card.
Kerr was made to wait to take the penalty but he showed no nerves and smashed the ball low to substitute keeper Berk Balaban’s right. Ice cold from the captain.
However, St Johnstone’s advantage was short lived. Reece Devine – on just his second competitive appearance – failed to cut out a pass to right-back Boey, who stepped forward and drilled a super finish into the far corner.
Despite playing with a man extra, Davidson’s men were content with sitting back and hitting on the break, and they were almost handed a second when Stevie May nicked the ball off Balaban, only for his effort from a tight angle to be blocked on the line.
The 10 men of Galatasaray continued to pile the pressure on, but a back three and goalkeeper now worth of legendary status at St Johnstone were there to deny them.
First, a huge block from Jamie McCart denied a Mbaye Diagne volley, followed by a sensational save from Clark from the resulting corner to claw away a Christian Luyindama header.
On paper – and on the reflection – the result will go down as one of the most memorable in St Johnstone’s history. But similar levels will be required to progress – and you simply would not bet against this side to do it.
A spot in the Europa League play-off round is the prize for the winners, where Danish side Randers await with a group-phase place at stake.
Defeat by Galatasaray would drop the Perth club into the final stage of qualifying for the Europa Conference League against Vojvodina or LASK of Austria, with the latter winning 1-0 in Serbia in the first leg.
Man of the match – Ali McCann
What did we learn?
This double cup-winning St Johnstone side is built on defying the odds, and they did again to earn a monumental result in Turkey.
However, depending on the way next week’s return fixture plays out, might they look back on the first leg as a missed opportunity?
It is hard to grumble with a draw, but with a man advantage for over half an hour there might have been more goals there for the away side.
Speculation has surrounded Davidson’s star men all summer, and after a showing like that it is difficult to see a scenario where he does not at least lose a couple of his big hitters by the end of the window.
Their names are already etched into St Johnstone folklore, but victory next week will elevate their names to an untouchable level.
What they said?
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson: “Galatasaray had the majority of possession and created chances, but we had a few too.
“The penalty and sending off was a big turning point, it gives us hope for the second leg at home with something to play for.”
St Johnstone welcome Motherwell on Sunday (15:00 BST) in their first home league match of the season. Galatasaray’s domestic campaign starts on 16 August, therefore their next game will be the return leg at McDiarmid Park next Thursday (19:00).
- 1MusleraBooked at 55mins
- 45do Nascimento TeixeiraBooked at 80mins
- 6van AanholtSubstituted forBayramat 45′minutes
- 35KaraSubstituted forBalabanat 57′minutes
- 4AntalyaliBooked at 49mins
- 22KutluSubstituted forSekidikaat 86′minutes
- 8BabelSubstituted forTuranat 45′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 11Ahmed AbdallaSubstituted forDiagneat 45′minutes
- 5KerrBooked at 51mins
- 19RooneySubstituted forBrownat 87′minutes
- 3DevineBooked at 80minsSubstituted forBoothat 88′minutes
- 11O’HalloranSubstituted forHendryat 76′minutes
- 9KaneBooked at 31minsSubstituted forMayat 62′minutes