Ruthless Juventus beats Celtic 3-0 in CLeague

Juventus punished poor defending with some clinical finishing to
beat Celtic 3-0 in the first leg of their last-16 match in the
Champions League on Tuesday, virtually sealing the Italian
champions’ place in the quarterfinals.

Mistakes by defender Efe Ambrose, who only returned from
international duty at the African Nations Cup on the morning of the
match, led to goals by Alessandro Matri in the third minute and
Mirko Vucinic in the 83rd.

Claudio Marchisio had scored the second goal in the 77th at the
end of a flowing team move by the current Serie A leaders, who rode
their luck before inflicting Celtic’s joint-heaviest home loss in
European competition.

The score line was harsh on Celtic, which dominated the first
half and most of the second, only to lack a cutting edge to beat
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

”We need a miracle but it’s the harsh reality of Champions
League football,” Celtic manager Neil Lennon said.

The second leg is in Turin on March 6, when Juventus will look
to finish the Scottish champions off and maintain its unbeaten run
in this season’s competition.

Paris Saint-Germain is in control of the other last-16 match
played Tuesday after winning 2-1 at Valencia. However, the French
team will be without striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the second leg
following his late sending-off at the Mestalla.

Celtic showed by beating Barcelona in the group stage that the
team is a match for anyone at its intimidating Celtic Park home,
and it posed Juventus all sorts of problems with its relentless
work rate and high pressing game.

”It’s a great result in a difficult stadium,” Marchisio said.
”We came here to score at least one goal and we scored three
without conceding, so we are very happy.”

Even Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo, usually so composed and
elegant in center midfield, was clearly ruffled at being hustled
and harried but Celtic couldn’t find the finish to go with its
build-up play.

”The score line flatters Juventus,” Lennon said. ”For 70-odd
minutes, we were by far the better side but you can’t give away
sloppy goals.”

Lennon may be regretting playing Ambrose on the day he landed in
Scotland after more than a month away with Nigeria at the African
Nations Cup. He played in the 1-0 victory over Burkino Faso in the
final on Sunday but was rushed back for the biggest game in
Celtic’s recent history.

”We took a gamble on Efe Ambrose,” Lennon acknowledged.

For the opener, Ambrose misjudged a routine ball forward to
leave Matri clean though on goal. The striker poked a finish
through goalkeeper Fraser Forster’s legs and the ball crossed the
line by the time Kelvin Wilson slid in to clear away.

Marchisio slammed the loose ball into the net for good measure –
with the assistant referee yet to signal – but Matri was given the
goal.

Ambrose then pondered too long on the ball before being robbed
by Marchisio and he fed Vucinic, who slipped a low finish into the
net. Ambrose hung his head in despair.

To make matters worse for Ambrose, he missed Celtic’s best
chance at the other end, heading tamely at Buffon in the second
half when completely unmarked eight yards out

Celtic’s response to conceding early had been very impressive,
peppering Buffon’s goal with shots throughout the first half.

Kris Commons had a handful of chances while Victor Wanyama
headed over from a corner just before halftime, which Juve would
have been relieved to reach without conceding.

The decibel levels remained high for the second half, as did
Celtic’s dominance – but still Buffon’s goal wasn’t breached.

Commons skied a shot over before Ambrose wasted his golden
chance – and Juventus made them pay.

Marchisio ran onto Matri’s slick through-ball, cutting inside
and firing in a shot that Forster couldn’t keep out to halt
Celtic’s momentum. And there was still time for Vucinic’s goal to
seal Ambrose’s miserable night.