Sunday 25 February 2018

Hoops bow out as clinical Juve show no mercy

Juventus 2 Celtic 0 (Juventus win 5-0 on agg)

Neil Lennon at the Juventus Stadium, Turin
Neil Lennon at the Juventus Stadium, Turin
06 March: Celtic's Giorgos Samaras looks dejected as his side are beaten 2-0 by Juventus in their UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match. The Glasgow side were defeated 5-0 on aggregate.

Roddy Forsyth

The quality of mercy did not constrain Juventus as they despatched Celtic from the Champions League without any consideration for the Parkhead side's desire to depart with something to show for abundant pride and effort.

Instead, the Old Lady applied a stiletto in the form of measured strikes by Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella.

While Neil Lennon had cause to be aggrieved about the standard of refereeing in the first leg – when the main damage was done – the Hoops manager witnessed a second defeat that was wholly attributable to a difference in class between the sides.

"Quality counts at the end of the day," Lennon said. "Our finishing at times let us down, our build-up play was very good but it's about execution. (Efe) Ambrose had a great chance with a header before half-time that would have made it 1-1 and who knows what would have happened.

"On the night class tells in the end and that's what's happened in the two games."

Juventus might not have the power from middle to front that can be discerned in Real Madrid but they will present an obdurate barrier to whoever is drawn against them in the quarter-finals.

There were notable absentees on either side, including two of the pivotal figures in the first leg. Stephan Lichtsteiner, whose manhandling of Gary Hooper earned him a caution that brought him within another booking of a suspension, was left out, as was Claudio Marchisio, for the same reason.


They were replaced by Simone Padoin and Paul Pogba respectively, although Arturo Vidal – also within one caution of a ban – did start.

Luca Marrone replaced Giorgio Chiellini in defence, while Quagliarella and Matri were paired in attack, with Mirko Vucinic – who had particularly impressed Lennon – was kept in reserve on the bench.

Also out, having played in the weekend quarter-final victory over St Mirren in the Scottish Cup, were Thomas Rogne, James Forrest and Anthony Stokes, the latter two of whom joined Efe Ambrose amongst the substitutes.

Charlie Mulgrew, who had missed Celtic's three previous games because of a muscle problem, was recalled and deployed alongside Joe Ledley in midfield, while Victor Wanyama dropped back from that department to partner Kelvin Wilson in defence.

Five hundred Celtic fans found themselves locked out of the stadium and complained that the gates in their section of the ground were not unlocked until after the match started.

There were no reports of trouble, but one fan who was said to have fainted because of the crush was passed over supporters' heads until he recovered.

On the field, a swift focus of attention was Celtic's first corner kick but, in a change of tactic, it was played short, affording no preview of Juve's likely response to a deep delivery. The use of Georgios Samaras as a target man had been anticipated by Juventus, who kept Andrea Barzagli tight on the striker – who was captain for the occasion – to good effect.

With three goals in the bank, of course, the Serie A leaders could afford to allow Celtic to play up to the edge of their box, where space immediately became scarce. Ledley responded by uncorking a drive from 25 yards which curled only just wide of the post, but no sooner had that encouraging development buoyed the travelling fans than Juve administered the sucker punch.

Hooper, dropping into his own half, was ambushed by Barzagli, who released Quagliarella through the left channel for a drive that Fraser Forster blocked, but could not hold, with Matri snapping on to the rebound to fire home the opener.

Celtic came very close to an equaliser on the night when a Kris Commons effort clipped off Hooper and wrong-footed Gianluigi Buffon, but the goalkeeper swung out a glove to turn the shot aside.

Next, Samaras cut in from the left flank for a driven cutback that skidded on the rain-soaked surface just beyond Hooper's straining boot, no more than a yard out.

By the interval Celtic had not looked out of place, yet their position had worsened. The restart saw Wanyama replaced by Ambrose and, soon after, Adam Matthews suffered a hamstring injury and was replaced by Forrest.

Meanwhile, Juve – who had the best player on show in Pogba – pressed further upfield – although the open nature of the match remained evident, to the benefit of Andrea Pirlo, who caught Emilio Izaguirre with a dropping cross to the feet of Vidal, who rolled the ball across the goal for Quagliarella to tap home. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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