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Soccer-Galatasaray oust Juve with late Sneijder winner


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By Ece Toksabay

ISTANBUL, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Galatasaray's Wesley Sneijder struck late to clinch a 1-0 win over Juventus and a Champions League last 16 spot at the expense of the Italians on Wednesday as they completed a match abandoned due to snow a day earlier.

Sneijder broke the deadlock in the 85th minute after being set up by a headed knock down from striker Didier Drogba, firing a low shot past Gianluigi Buffon in the Group B match which was again beset by snowy conditions that make the pitch slippery.

Galatasaray's win lifted them above the Serie A champions into second with seven points compared to six for Juve, who drop into the Europa League. Real Madrid won the group with 16 points having beaten bottom side FC Copenhagen 2-0 away on Tuesday.

The rearranged game in Istanbul restarted in the 32nd minute on Wednesday after being abandoned due to heavy snowfall on Tuesday. Both teams struggled on a muddy pitch which made passing a major challenge, forcing them to hit long balls.

"I think we got a well-deserved win over Juventus today," Galatasaray's Italian manager Roberto Mancini told Turkish television. Restarting the game after a rescheduling made concentrating a challenge, but our fans showed up in snowfall today and helped us through. We are truly grateful."

Galatasary captain Selcuk Inan added: "It turned into an advantage for us that the game was postponed because we knew the result of the Real Madrid-Copenhagen game, and we knew at worst we would go into the Europa League. We are very happy to have advanced to the knockout stage two seasons in a row."

Juventus created few chances, mostly through the work rate of their Argentina striker Carlos Tevez whose cheeky backheel in a fine move after 79 minutes was wasted by Claudio Marchisio whose tame effort was easily saved by Fernando Muslera.

Galatasaray's Netherlands playmaker Sneijder, teamed up with Ivory Coast striker Drogba to create chances, especially after the hour when Juve were pushed into their own half, and the combination paid dividends five minutes from time.

Sneijder, 29, linked with a move to Manchester United in January, said: "This year we didn't make a great start but this victory helps us a lot to find our confidence again. We have a great team spirit as we always keep pushing until the very end.

"Any team we're going to face now will be as good as any other. We want to make it to the quarter-finals, it doesn't matter who we play next."

Juventus coach Antonio Conte told reporters: "I praised the players because they gave everything on a pitch where you couldn't play football and that penalised us.

"The regret is that we left it all up to the last game. Now let's think about the domestic championship," he added with Juve top of Serie A by three points after 15 matches.

The only consolation for Juve is that they have a chance to play in the Europa League final at their home stadium on May 14. (Editing by Ken Ferris)

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