Juventus clinically finish off their task
Juventus' Alessandro Matri (C) celebrates with his teammates after scoring against Celtic. Photograph: Giorgio Perottino
Juventus 2 Celtic 0 (Juventus win 5-0 on agg): Celtic’s Champions League journey ended, as expected, in the pouring rain of Turin. Nonetheless, the comprehensive nature of Juventus’s progress should not detract from the contribution Celtic made to the tie and, indeed, the eye-catching work undertaken by Neil Lennon and his players since they set out in the Champions League’s qualifying stage ago.
Celtic, trailing 3-0 from the pair’s meeting in Scotland, should receive plaudits for the way they took the game to Juve over 180 minutes. They were undone, ultimately, by superior opposition and their own lack of cutting edge.
This Juve team are well capable of extending their Champions League campaign even further; few teams will relish a visit to this vibrant venue to face a team not lacking in points to prove.
Lennon had left Celtic’s first-leg fall-guy, Efe Ambrose, among the substitutes and Victor Wanyama took his place at centre-back. There was a return, though, for Georgios Samaras. The hosts, unsurprisingly, shuffled their starting lineup. Giorgio Chiellini and Mirko Vucinic were named as substitutes as Antonio Conte took advantage of a strong lead. Juve also have the defence of their Serie A title to save energy for.
Celtic opened brightly. Kris Commons should have shot when afforded a clear sight of goal 20 yards out, with the midfielder’s attempted pass to Gary Hooper scrambled clear by the Juventus defence. Commons was again wasteful when played in by Joe Ledley after 17 minutes. Ledley himself was the next to threaten, with a long-range effort which sailed narrowly wide of Gianluigi Buffon’s upright.
Juventus responded ruthlessly in the fashion that has so damaged Celtic. Hooper was brushed aside all too easily by Arturo Vidal, who in turn fed Fabio Quagliarella. The forward’s shot was palmed by Fraser Forster into the path of Alessandro Matri, who stroked home the rebound.
Forster has been short of his finest form lately. He would again have been disappointed with the part he played in that Juve opener.
No such criticism could be thrown Buffon’s way. He produced an outstanding, one-handed save after a Commons shot was deflected by Hooper towards the home goal.
With half an hour played, Celtic would have been forgiven exasperation but they continued to attack. Samaras played a teasing ball across the Juventus six-yard box which Hooper failed to anticipate properly. Any kind of touch from the much-courted striker would have resulted in a goal. Beram Kayal was afforded Celtic’s last opportunity of the opening half but the midfielder headed straight at Buffon, having met an Emilio Izaguirre cross.
Ambrose replaced Wanyama at the interval, thereby almost inevitably bringing an end to the latter’s Champions League career as a Celtic player. Wanyama’s stock has risen to such an extent that it would be a major shock if he remained in Scotland beyond the summer.
Hooper and Forster, too, will have their suitors; such is the consequence of Celtic performing well on a grander stage than the Scottish Premier League. The challenge for Lennon is to retain, or rebuild, a team that can meet the expectation Celtic’s progress to the last 16 of this competition has created. That is no easy feat against a backdrop of an uninspiring domestic environment.
How Celtic wanted to deliver at least one goal for their travelling fans during this second half. Ambrose tried to supply it but headed wide from a Charlie Mulgrew corner.
At the opposite end, Celtic’s shortcomings were exposed once again. Vidal was allowed to evade Izaguirre, before offering a cut-back which Quagliarella easily converted. Izaguirre appealed for offside against Vidal when, in reality, Celtic’s Honduran left-back was culpable in playing him onside.
Cue further Juventus relaxation. The outstanding Vidal was replaced, as was Andrea Pirlo, with Conte’s team more content than ever to let Celtic retain the ball for concerted periods. Samaras drove over the crossbar following Ledley’s lay-off but the game had now regressed into a non-event. The Old Lady cleared her throat, and sang.