JUVENTUS players last night rubbed salt into Celtic’s Champions League wounds by labelling Neil Lennon’s side over-physical and reliant on the long ball.
The Serie A leaders have all but secured their place in the last eight with Tuesday night’s 3-0 win, but insisted that they will treat the SPL champions with respect in the second leg.
Celtic’s epic European campaign, which peaked with their famous 2-1 home win over Barcelona, hit a brick wall against Juve, with goals from Alessandro Matri, Claudio Marchisio and Mirko Vucinic making the return a virtual formality.
Celtic players criticised the pushing and holding by Juve defenders at corners, but Juventus midfielder Marchisio claimed the visitors had “suffered a lot physically”.
He added: “It was important for us to come and score at least one goal, and we managed to get three without conceding. Celtic fire in crosses from a long distance hoping to pick out someone’s head. But we studied their gameplan, and showed real bravery.
“We took a lot of knocks. Celtic were playing in front of their own fans, and they tried to inject even more grit and character into their game than usual but thankfully we emerged from it in good health. This was a very important win, above all as now we can focus a bit more on Serie A.
“We are not yet into the next round for certain. But it was a vital win at a stadium which is not easy to play in. I felt the team put in a truly great performance. You can never be certain that Celtic won’t turn the scoreline around. But if we show the same determination we will be OK.”
Juventus goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon praised his team for being “brave, cyncial and ruthless”.
The Italy international said: “We have shown Europe that we can suffer and rise to the occasion. Celtic played at a frantic pace, and it was hard for us to build our usual attacks. It’s not good for us to approach the return leg in too calm a fashion. We will remain fully focused, and continue to show respect for Celtic.
“They are a top side, and they have proved it. We struggled to impose an attacking game, and we were compelled to use strength, defend well and hit on the counter-attack. Let’s be honest – we were brave, clinical and ruthless. The game was decided in a few episodes.
“Someone who’d not watched it might think from the scoreline that we had an easy win. All the chances went in our favour, and it was important that we capitalised on them. We proved we are a solid team. We have taken a step forward.”
Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal added: “Celtic proved they are a strong side, but we went about the game in the right manner. The scoreline is a bit harsh on them. Although we won, we are not yet through to the quarter-finals.
“We knew they were very strong, both physically and from set pieces, but we stood up to them bravely. It was a great display by us and now we can approach the second leg a bit more calmly.”