Galatasaray held to draw, loses Elmander to injury
Galatasaray and Cluj players and coaches blame the heavy rain and the poor condition of the pitch for the draw. REUTERS PhotoBurak Yılmaz scored late in the second half to salvage a 1-1 draw for Galatasaray against 10-man CFR Cluj in the Champions League at the Türk Telekom Arena, but the team lost more than just two points in the race to qualify from Group H of the competition.
The Istanbul club was dealt a major injury blow as Swedish star Johan Elmander went down with a torn muscle that will keep him out for the next month.
Cluj took the lead after 19 minutes as Camora’s dangerous cross from the left saw the ball take a deflection off the unfortunate Dany Nounkeu before nestling in the back of the Lions’ net.
Matias Aguirregaray was then sent off for two silly yellow cards in quick succession before Galatasaray midfielder Felipe Melo failed to take advantage of a generous penalty decision by aiming his spot kick too close to goalkeeper Mario Felgueiras.
The hosts controlled the entire second half in what were dire conditions but had to wait until late on to snatch an equalizer as substitute Yılmaz rose highest to powerfully head home Nordin Amrabat’s dangerous cross.
The rain-soaked pitch hampered both sides’ ability to control the ball and stay on their feet. Both sides were forced to abandon their normal short-passing game and resort to booting the ball up the field.
With the players sliding on the wet field, the referee awarded multiple free kicks and issued several yellow cards.
“The big story was the pitch,’’ said Amrabat after the match. “If it hadn’t been raining so much, we would have had a better result. Because of the pitch we had to play long balls.”
The Moroccan also rued his team’s luck, saying Cluj’s strike was lucky while noting that his team had missed a penalty. “We’re still keeping our hopes up. We can still qualify from the group.’’