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.