Galatasaray advances in Champions League
ISTANBUL (AP) — Wesley Sneijder scored a late goal Wednesday to help Galatasaray advance to the knockout stage of the Champions League with a 1-0 win over Juventus in a weather-delayed match.
The former Inter Milan midfielder scored in the 85th minute in snowy conditions, eliminating Juventus from the competition.
Didier Drogba flicked a long ball to Sneijder on the right of the penalty area and the Netherlands international shot through Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci’s legs and into the far bottom corner.
The match had been abandoned in the 32nd minute on Tuesday because of hail and snow. The field was cleared of snow before the restart but the efforts had left it in poor condition.
Juventus coach Antonio Conte and Drogba complained to the referee at halftime.
“It was difficult to play the ball and I think it would have been better not to play as I said before the match,” Galatasaray coach Roberto Mancini said. “It was an open game in the end and we deserved to win because we were more aggressive.”
Both teams struggled, especially when the snow began to fall heavily again, and chances were scarce.
“It was impossible to play last night and no one wanted to. I didn’t think it was right to play today either,” Mancini said. “But it was impossible to suspend the game at the end of the first half, but I agree with Conte because it was impossible — or almost — to play and it wasn’t a game of football.”
Galatasaray had to win to progress to the last 16, while Juventus needed only a point to secure its advancement from Group B, which was won by Real Madrid. However, the Italian team was without playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who is out with damaged knee ligaments.
“We tried to have the game postponed,” Conte said. “There was a meeting with the UEFA delegate in which we explained the game was dangerous but maybe no one wanted to wait.
“At halftime, I said to the referee that it wasn’t safe. Drogba at a certain point told me ‘it’s the same thing for both teams,’ but it wasn’t, because we wanted to play football.”
Juventus had had the better of the opportunities on Tuesday, with Fernando Llorente going closest to putting the Italian side in front. The Spaniard controlled a cross from Arturo Vidal before volleying just wide of the left post.
Galatasaray’s best chance fell to Drogba, who sent a free kick over the wall but wide, although Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon looked to have it covered.
Both teams clearly struggled when the match resumed and they resorted to attempting long passes as the ball kept stopping in the slush.
Galatasaray appeared to be dealing with the conditions better than Juventus as the snow began to again fall heavily and Sneijder almost broke the deadlock in the 54th but he shot over.
“I have to praise the lads, they gave everything,” Conte said. “We were punished in a huge way because we’re a team which plays with the ball. But we complicated our own lives by having to fight for qualification in the last match.”