Antonio Conte thought it madness to play on that pitch, but admits Juventus “shouldn’t have left it all to the last match.”
Their 1-0 defeat to Galatasaray knocked them out of the Champions League. It had started last night, was called off due to snow after 32 minutes and resumed this afternoon with a pitch that seemed to be in even worse condition.
“We certainly tried to have the game postponed and met with the UEFA delegate beforehand, but nobody wanted to listen. Roberto Mancini said it was dangerous and I agreed with him, I said “I think so.” I don’t think my English is that bad...” Conte told Sky Sport Italia.
“At half-time I reiterated to the referee that it was not safe to play in these conditions. Didier Drogba said it was the same thing for both teams, but I pointed out it wasn’t, because we were trying to play football.
“I have to praise the lads, as they gave their all in a situation where we were enormously penalised, as the game resorted to a football brawl.”
“I will say our mistake was to get to the last game and play everything here. With a decent pitch, I am sure we would’ve played our game. We couldn’t have predicted these circumstances, so in my view our exit is unfair, but we also made life difficult for ourselves.”
The Bianconeri finished the group with just one victory, three draws and two defeats. They didn’t keep a clean sheet, though the Istanbul result was their first without scoring.
They now go into the Europa League and the Final will be played at the Juventus Stadium in Turin.
“We have to dive back into Serie A and the disappointment – and it is a disappointment – has to spur us on domestically. We have another two games before the Christmas break and will then start to think about the Europa League. We’ll try to do our best, as we wanted to do our best in the Champions League. Are we targeting the Final? You’re more optimistic than I am!
“Last season we had a slow start too and qualified top of the group with three final victories. This time we didn’t manage it.
“Let’s not forget this side rose from the ashes of seventh place twice. We won in Italy two years in a row and didn’t qualify this year because it was our fault, we shouldn’t have left it all to the last match when anything could happen.”
Wesley Sneijder scored the goal with an angled drive set up by Drogba, though Leonardo Bonucci was caught out in defence.
“There were many situations that needed to be corrected in that move. We shouldn’t have been three against three, as Kwadwo Asamoah or Stephan Lichtsteiner could’ve come back or Paul Pogba not allowed Sneijder to go on the counter. It’s always danger when there is a three against three and I told the team at half-time it was crucial to have an extra man.
“In the entire second half we had to attack on the side of the pitch that was impossible, whereas Galatasaray’s end was better.”
Conte became increasingly angry when pressed on how much the field had affected Juve’s chances of qualification.
“We are talking about a game played on a mudslide. There’s no ‘also’ when it comes to discussing the turf. It was everything. What made me angry was yesterday the referee suspended play because it was ‘dangerous’ and all of a sudden today it was no longer ‘dangerous.’ Maybe I need to improve my English, as the officials don’t seem to understand me very well.
“The only way of playing today was to kick it upfield and hope for the best. That is really not the sort of football we are accustomed to and it showed.”