Wesley Sneijder struck the most priceless of goals five minutes from time on the snow ravaged pitch of the Turk Telekom Arena to send Galatasaray into the Champions League Round of 16 at the expense of Juventus.
The game resumed in the 32nd minute on Wednesday after it had to be abandoned the night before due to heavy snow. The pitch had been cleared before kickoff but in a manner that left the playing surface in Istanbul devoid of large sections of grass, much to the consternation of Juventus boss Antonio Conte.
Still, with the Italian champions needing just a draw to progress alongside Real Madrid from Group B, it appeared that they would leave the Turkish capital the happier. With the difficult conditions, it was again far from a free-flowing affair.
Carlos Tevez had the first clear chance of the match just before half-time, but he sent his shot wide after being set-up by Fernando Llorente. At the other end Aurelien Chedjou and Didier Drogba spurned opportunities for the home side, who were cheered on by an impassioned crowd, despite the unusual time of the match’s resumption.
Entering the final minutes, Juventus looked set to hold out and secure a place in the knockout phase for the second-straight year. Instead, a long ball forward was headed on in trademark fashion by Drogba and Sneijder took the ball perfectly in his stride down the right of the area before squeezing a shot through the legs of a covering Juventus defender and perfectly into the corner of the net. The Dutch midfielder was mobbed by his ecstatic teammates in one of the piles of snow on the side of the pitch.
When the match did resume, Juventus, suddenly needing to chase a goal, couldn’t respond.
For Galatasaray it was the ultimate vindication of their decision to splash the cash and bring in former Champions League winners Drogba and Sneijder in January. In contrast, Juventus’ strengthening of their squad in the summer, and specifically up front where Tevez and Llorente had been recruited, led to a regression in a competition where they desperately want to prove themselves after their return to prominence domestically.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.