Alim Ozturk opens up on his difficult start at Sunderland and Portsmouth red card ahead of Fratton Park clash

Sunderland defender Alim Ozturk will be available to face Portsmouth at Fratton Park.
Sunderland defender Alim Ozturk will be available to face Portsmouth at Fratton Park.
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Alim Ozturk was not surprised to see his red card against Portsmouth overturned earlier this week - and now believes Sunderland fans are seeing the best of him.

The Black Cats defender was dismissed for a tackle on Pompey's Gareth Evans in the first leg of the League One play-off semi-final - a decision which has since been overturned.

It means Ozturk will be available for tonight's second leg at Fratton Park, with Sunderland holding a 1-0 lead.

“To be honest, I was expecting to see the decision overturned," the defender told SAFC.com. "It was not a red card for me, at all. For some people maybe and in real time it may have looked a bit clumsy.

“I saw the reaction of those around me and they were saying ‘no way, that is not a red card’ and that was the feeling from me as well.

“I was not sure what the referee was going to do when he blew for the free kick, but I was genuinely shocked when he pulled the red card out and you can see that from my reaction. “

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After a difficult start to the season and prolonged spell on the sidelines, Ozturk has now started Sunderland's last six games.

The 26-year-old joined the Black Cats from SPL side Hearts last summer and now believes Sunderland fans are seeing what he's capable of.

“It was not an easy start for me when I came here," added Ozturk. "I worked hard for myself and you want to play games – that is why you play football; you want to be on the pitch.

“It was a really difficult period and it was hard to take as I really wanted to play. I have played the last six games and I have tried my best to do my part in this important period.

“The fans did not see the proper me at the start of the season, but they are starting to now. I was surprised with myself at the start of the season.

“The things that I did, I know myself that I wouldn’t do those things, when I went home, I did not know why I played the way I did on the pitch. But I am 100 per cent now and I am ready to go."

Until his red card midway through the second half, Ozturk was coping well with the physical threat of Portsmouth striker Oliver Hawkins.

The defender's availability for the second leg at Fratton Park will come as a big boost for Sunderland, and Ozturk can't wait for the encounter.

“I really can’t wait for kick off," said Ozturk. "This kind of game is the type you want to play as a player. There is a lot of pressure. It is a huge game for the club. To be involved is really nice and hopefully we can get the positive result we need.

“I was waiting for my chance for a very long time to be honest. The other guys were performing so well so it was hard. But when I got my chance, I took it and I played really well.

“Since then, the fans have got behind me and have helped me perform to my best levels, so I want to thank them for that.”