In their first campaign in Europe’s premier club competition for 37 years, it just was not meant to be for Borussia Mönchengladbach, who despite producing an excellent performance in their 1-1 draw with Juventus can no longer qualify for the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds.
However, the Foals can take plenty of pride from the manner in which they acquitted themselves at the highest level, and retain a chance of a place in the latter stages of the UEFA Europa League. Speaking to the assembled press after their decisive Group D encounter, Gladbach No.1 Yann Sommer discussed his team's now inevitable exit, the new targets the side have set themselves and the upcoming Bundesliga clash with FC Ingolstadt 04.
Yann Sommer, Borussia Mönchengladbach had Juventus on the brink of defeat tonight. Was their more on offer than a 1-1 draw?
Yann Sommer: Yes, I think that’s fair to say. It was a great game from us and put in a fantastic performance. We played with a lot of courage and we pressed them really well, and that was good to see. In the second half you saw that it isn’t easy to play against a compact and defence-minded side, but despite that we still carved out chances. We were just lacking that little bit of luck.
Gladbach often resorted to taking shots from distance. Mahmoud Dahoud’s effort that came off the bar was the perfect example of that. It’s nice to see, but something seemed to be missing.
Sommer: We had other clear-cut chances like Lars Stindl’s header, which [Gianluigi] Buffon did well to keep out. He also made a great save to deny Thorgan Hazard. The chances were there. In the end we’re taking a point with us and can only look forward now. As I’ve said, there are a lot of positives to take from this performance, which we can use to our advantage domestically and in the next UEFA Champions League encounter.
Gladbach boasted a man advantage as of the 53rd minute. Was this a true test of whether the team could take advantage of those circumstances in such a big match?
Sommer: It’s hard to say. Obviously it was a situation that’s hard to play out. Juventus are one of the best teams in the world and they’ve got so much experience in their side. It was obviously a test for us, but I feel we handled it very well. We got through it and had a lot of golden opportunities. It’s just a shame we couldn’t get the goal.
The result means Borussia an still sneak into the UEFA Europa League. How do you see your chances?
Sommer: We definitely want to clinch third place in the group to still have European football to look forward to, because we know there'll be some great games to be played in 2016. Getting into the Europa League is a nice target to have and one we want to achieve. To do so we’ve got to beat Sevilla in our next game.
Ingolstadt will more than likely sit just as deep and keeps things just as tight in the Bundesliga on Saturday. In that respect, can Gladbach learn something from the way Juventus' played here?
Sommer: You could say that. Juventus did an incredibly good job of it. They were perfect exponents of the Italian style of football. We’ve seen that Juventus have survived going through a tough period in the league, and that drains your energy. But they sat deep, absorbed the threat we tried to pose and wanted to avoid letting us create any space. Despite that we still had chances and fully deserved something from the game.
The atmosphere inside the stadium was exceptional, and the pre-match choreography organised by the fans and even the opposition fans added to the experience. Is it mentally difficult to go from facing a top opponent in Europe to relatively unknown opposition in the Bundesliga?
Sommer: No, not at all. We take every opponent seriously. It'll be a very difficult game for us because Ingolstadt, as a newly-promoted side, are having a fantastic season so far and are playing really well. In the Bundesliga, nothing ever comes gift-wrapped. It’s one of the best leagues in the world and every game is a challenge. We’ll have to give 110 per cent again on Saturday if we want to win. We’re ambitious and motivated in the Bundesliga and we’ve gained even more confidence from this performance.
Tobias Gonscherowski reporting from Mönchengladbach