EFE AMBROSE could have spent last night in Lagos, joining in extended celebrations with the rest of the Nigeria squad after winning the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 19 years.
Instead he boarded the first available flight and found himself thrust into the heat of a Champions League last-16 battle on a chilly night in Glasgow.
The home side, inspired by a cacophony around Celtic Park, had flown out of the traps, with Victor Wanyama and Kris Commons putting Gianluigi Buffon's goal under threat, but this Juventus side know how to deploy a long ball as well as a short one. Martin Caceres levered one over from the left, and Ambrose found himself outmanoeuvred by the brawny Alessandro Matri on his blind side. The front man tucked the ball underneath the onrushing Fraser Forster – who knows what the watching Roy Hodgson made of that – and the ball was over the line by the time Kelvin Wilson attempted to salvage the day. In terms of morale- sapping early setbacks against Italian opposition, it was right up there with Luca Toni's strike against Scotland at Hampden a few years back.
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Ambrose's night didn't get any worse but it didn't get much better either. Although Celtic were an attacking threat – Lennon had gone with an enterprising 4-3-3 shape – the defender's personal highlights from the first half included clattering into an earth-shaking collision with his team-mate Victor Wanyama, inadvertently blocking a low goalbound James Forrest shot, and passing up his side's best chance with a tame downward header from a Charlie Mulgrew cross that was too close to Buffon.
By contrast, Juventus' men in black proved to still be masters of the black arts. The ball might not have ended up in the net from Celtic's first corner, but Gary Hooper did, the precursor to an evening spent jostling with Stephan Lichtsteiner for the real estate in front of Buffon from corners and which saw both men booked.
Although Chris Sutton actually earned a penalty award back in the famous 4-3 game in such circumstances, and an additional assistant referee these days is positioned behind the goalline, the chances of the Italians being punished in this fashion again last night seemed slim to non-existent. By the end, Celtic were into double figures for corners, but no-one got a clear run at one all night, in contrast to what happened against Barcelona and Benfica. "Same old Juve, always cheating," bayed the home fans.
The midfield battle between Scott Brown and Andrea Pirlo had been billed pre-match as the game's real heavyweight contest: the feisty Fifer attempting to ruffle the plumage of a man who has twice held aloft this trophy in the colours of Milan. The way the match panned out, Brown wasn't always in the veteran's sphere of influence, but on the occasions he was, he made sure to make his mark. Angry words and a bit more besides were exchanged between the pair after a first-half exchange, but one lovely turn of the shoulders left Brown pawing at thin air and it said it all that it was Pirlo who stayed the course while Brown was withdrawn early.
Wanyama also had his moments but the best midfielder on show may well have been Claudio Marchisio. He was on hand at the match's main moments, making sure the first goal was over the line and popped up with the second which effectively killed the tie. The Italian timed his run perfectly to alight on the ball in the inside left channel, pirouette cutely away from a backtracking defender, and deposit the ball beyond Forster.
Having already brought on Adam Matthews and Tony Watt, Lennon's last throw of the dice was to replace Brown with Biram Kayal, but the Irsaeli's influence was unable to prevent the loss of a third goal. Marchisio once more made the crucial break, feeding Mirko Vucinic, who finished well. The final scoreline flattered the visitors, but at 3-0 the tie is over. The most depressing thing is that Michel Platini was probably right all along.