An 85th minute Wesley Sneijder strike saw the Bianconeri’s Champions League adventure come to a cruel end after Galatasaray’s 1-0 win enabled them to snatch Group B’s final qualification spot this afternoon in Istanbul.
Having returned to the Turk Telekom Arena after last night’s original encounter was abandoned following 31 minutes of play due to a heavy snowstorm, Antonio Conte’s men, who will now compete in this year’s Europa League, put on a brave showing on a practically unplayable pitch.
Undeterred, his charges drew on all of their combative spirit and looked to make the best of a difficult situation which severely impeded them from playing their traditional brand of one-touch flowing football.
In defence, Leonardo Bonucci picked up where he left off last night, keeping the shackles on Didier Drogba as the spare man in the back three, while in the final third, the ever-direct Carlos Tevez forced Fernando Muslera to push the ball behind for a corner after dispatching a shot from the right-hand side of the area, only to see a free-kick awarded to the hosts for a prior infringement.
With the climate remaining unchanged from the first half, Juventus emerged for the second 45 minutes knowing they would need to dig deep on a heavy surface. Looking to make his imposing stature count in midfield was Paul Pogba, who drew a straightforward save from Muslera with a 30-yard strike on 49 minutes.
By now the hosts, featuring a wealth of attacking talent in their ranks, had begun to up the ante and Juventus had to rely on the razor-sharp reflexes of Gigi Buffon to ride to their rescue after Drogba guided a purposeful shot goalwards on 56 minutes.
As the game began to flow from end to end, Kwadwo Asamoah was the next to try his luck on 67 minutes, drawing a low stop from Muslera at his near post after being teed up by Tevez.
Now with the bit between their teeth after forcing Galatasaray to retreat deep inside their own half, Juventus fashioned a promising opportunity to make their pressure tell. Again it stemmed from the good work of Tevez, who rolled back for Marchisio to warm the gloves of Muslera with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Yet, with the visitors looking the most likely to resolve the encounter once and for all, there was to be one further twist in the tale as Galatasaray piled bodies forward for one late surge, Drogba feeding Sneijder to break Bianconeri hearts by finding the bottom corner.