Stephan Lichtsteiner made his comeback from a career-threatening heart problem with a stunning equaliser for 10-man Juventus in a 1-1 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach, who are eliminated from the Champions League as a result.
Juve would have qualified for the knockout stages with a victory, but the second-half sending off of Hernanes for a rash challenge proved a significant setback for Massimiliano Allegri’s men.
Gladbach, who went into the game on the back of three consecutive victories across all competitions, took the lead inside the first 20 minutes through Fabian Johnson, but Lichtsteiner’s equaliser ended their hopes of qualifying from Group D with two games left to play.
There had been doubts over whether Lichtsteiner would play football again when he was forced to undergo heart surgery to correct a defect at the start of October, and he was a surprise inclusion in Allegri’s starting line-up.
His selection proved decisive in a tightly contested match, and his finish from Paul Pogba’s exquisite pass put the final touch on a fabulous goal.
Last season’s runners-up Juve will seal their progression to the last 16 if they defeat Manchester City next time out, while the best Gladbach can hope for now is third place in the group and a spot in the Europa League.
Wearing their striking pink change strip, Juve started on the front foot and almost opened the scoring when Giorgio Chiellini headed a free-kick down for Patrice Evra, who shot narrowly over with the outside of his left foot.
Gladbach soon began to find their flow, and Mahmoud Dahoud almost struck one of the goals of the tournament when he controlled a clearance and thumped a wonderful swerving drive that crashed into the crossbar with Gianluigi Buffon well beaten.
Shortly afterwards, the home side were ahead courtesy of an error by Chiellini, who slipped as he tried to clear Oscar Wendt’s cross, allowing Raffael to play in Johnson to get away from Evra and fire an angled shot into the left corner of the net.
Chiellini almost atoned for his error when he out-jumped Granit Xhaka to head narrowly wide from a corner, and Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer then had to be alert to keep out Evra’s powerful downward header with a fine save.
Just before half-time, Pogba conjured a moment of magic for Juve, scooping a sensational lobbed pass into the path of Lichtsteiner, and the Switzerland international lashed a first-time volley beyond Sommer to level.
Pogba fired narrowly wide shortly after the restart as Juve maintained the momentum that Lichtsteiner’s equaliser had given them, and Alvaro Morata had a shot deflected wide as they probed for a winner.
The visitors were in the ascendancy when Hernanes slid into a challenge with Alvaro Dominguez two-footed with his studs up, and referee Bjorn Kuipers showed the Brazilian a straight red card.
Despite the setback, Juve continued to press and Pogba went close again with a free-kick that swerved narrowly wide of Sommer’s near post.
The home side went achingly close to a winner when Lars Stindl was denied by Buffon, and the veteran goalkeeper made another brilliant late save from Thorgan Hazard to earn Juventus the draw and send Gladbach out.
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