A CHAMPIONS League campaign which has brought so much pride and pleasure to Celtic and their supporters ended in painful frustration as they sustained the heaviest aggregate defeat in the club’s 50-year European history.
SCORERS: Juventus - Matri (24), Quagliarella (65)
Juventus won 5-0 on aggregate
Referee: Fırat Aydınus (Tur)
This last 16 tie which was effectively already over when Juventus plundered their 3-0 first leg win at Celtic Park three weeks earlier, and the Italian champions duly completed their passage into the quarter-finals with composed professionalism last night.
Any prospect of a footballing miracle from Celtic was ended by Alessandro Matri’s first half goal before Fabio Quagliarella’s second half strike made the final margin of victory over 180 minutes exceptionally harsh on Lennon’s team. They could not be displeased with their overall performance level in the magnificent Juventus Stadium, but simply lacked the cutting edge and defensive reliability of their hosts at crucial moments.
Despite their pre-match verbal sparring, with sharply contrasting views on Juventus’ defending of set pieces in the first leg, there appeared to be no lingering ill feeling between Lennon and Antonio Conte.
The Juventus coach, in fact, went out of his way to greet Lennon just before kick-off and the pair shook hands and embraced warmly.
Conte could afford to feel relaxed, of course, and Matri’s goal midway through the first half provided him with all the extra comfort he could have needed to be assured that the first-leg lead his team had earned in Glasgow would prove impregnable.
On the night, however, Celtic could count themselves unfortunate to fall behind after a bright start in which they were the more positive and threatening side.
There were a couple of surprise omissions from Lennon’s starting line-up, with Efe Ambrose and James Forrest left among the substitutes. Victor Wanyama was deployed in central defence, Beram Kayal joined Joe Ledley and Charlie Mulgrew in midfield, while Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras were either side of Gary Hooper in an adventurous 4-3-3 formation. Conte felt able to leave experienced Giorgio Chiellini on the bench, handing 22-year-old Luca Marrone his Champions League debut, but there were some anxious moments for the young defender as Celtic enjoyed decent possession and territory in the opening phase.
Of all people, it was Andrea Pirlo who gave the ball away cheaply to allow Celtic to carve out their first opening in the third minute. Joe Ledley seized on the veteran Italian playmaker’s error to find Samaras on the left and his cross found Commons, whose shot was blocked.
Juventus understandably had no great desire or need to play the game at a high tempo but they first came close to adding to their first-leg lead when Paul Pogba produced a delightful turn on the edge of the Celtic penalty area in the 13th minute, forcing Fraser Forster to race from his line and block the ball at the feet of Fabio Quagliarella.
Celtic came agonisingly close to scoring first, certainly the minimum requirement if they were to have any hope of mounting an unprecedented comeback, in the 21st minute. Commons found Ledley around 20 yards out and the Welsh midfielder’s sweetly struck left-foot shot flew narrowly wide of Buffon’s top left hand post.
That effort saw the volume level of the Celtic supporters increase notably, but they were silenced three minutes later when Juventus made it 1-0 on the evening. Hooper was guilty of slack play as he lost possession to Andrea Barzagli, allowing the home side to send Quagliarella racing into the penalty area.
His shot was rather weakly dealt with by Forster, who could only parry the ball into the path of Matri, and he slotted it home from around six yards.
To Celtic’s credit, they maintained a positive attitude towards their now completely hopeless task.
It took a magnificent save from Buffon to deny them in the 28th minute, the goalkeeper reacting brilliantly to divert the ball wide one-handed after a Commons shot had been flicked on by Hooper.
Juventus looked capable of inflicting further punishment on the counter-attack, Arturo Vidal scooping a shot over after Quagliarella had robbed Commons. But Celtic continued to have a greater share of possession, coming close again when Hooper could not stretch quickly enough to convert Samaras’ low cross across the Juventus six-yard box.
Conte’s men had the final word of the half, Forster holding a Vidal shot, but Lennon could take satisfaction from his team’s performance in the opening 45 minutes, if not the scoreline.
Celtic made a change at the start of the second half, Ambrose replacing Wanyama in central defence. They were soon forced into another reshuffle at the back when Adam Matthews was taken off on a stretcher after pulling up with what looked like a hamstring injury. Forrest replaced the Welshman, with Mulgrew dropping back into the heart of the back four as Ambrose moved over to right-back.
Juventus threatened a second goal when the lively Quagliarella saw a shot well saved by Forster, but Celtic continued to push men forward at every opportunity in a bid to gain some tangible reward for their efforts. It should have been delivered by Ambrose in the 58th minute.
Mulgrew’s corner kick from the left found the big Nigerian unmarked in the penalty area, but, just as he did in the first leg when Celtic were just 1-0 behind, he completely miscued his free header which saw the ball bounce down into the ground and then over the top. Lennon clasped his hands to his head in despair on the touchline and was soon left even further deflated when Juventus doubled their lead on the night seven minutes later.
Pirlo had been kept relatively quiet, but he produced a sublime lofted pass into the penalty area to pick out the run of Vidal who had stolen a yard on the slow-to-react Emilio Izaguirre. Vidal rolled a pass across the six yard box to present Quagliarella with a simple tap-in.
Juventus: Buffon, Barzagli, Marrone, Bonucci; Padoin, Vidal (Isla 66), Pirlo (Giaccherini 69), Pogba, Peluso (Asamoah 59); Quagliarella, Matri. Subs not used: Storari, Chiellini, Vucinic, Giovinco.
Celtic: Forster, Matthews (Forrest 52), Wilson, Wanyama (Ambrose 46), Izaguirre; Kayal, Ledley, Mulgrew; Commons (Lassad 73), Hooper, Samaras. Subs not used: Zaluska, Miku, Stokes, McGeouch.