What had always looked like a deeply ominous second leg in the last 16 proved to be exactly that last night as Juventus put them out of their misery. A cold, clinical victory – coupled with the devastating first leg result at Parkhead – sent Celtic toppling to a 5-0 aggregate defeat, the heaviest they have ever suffered in Europe. The pain will be eased only a little by recognition of the fact they had been snuffed out by the most impressive opposition they have faced this season.
Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella scored to extend Celtic's sequence to nine visits to Italy without a win. Any comfort for Celtic had to be drawn from the fact they generally competed well and were not humiliated.
Still, Juventus won without going through the gears, playing neither their best striker, Mirko Vucinic, nor their strongest defender, Giorgio Chiellini. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had an undemanding evening and Andrea Pirlo produced a display of quiet excellence. Juventus were superior in every department and the joy Celtic had from free-kicks earlier in the campaign – including against Barcelona – was entirely absent against the Italians' defending.
The last 16 remains the glass ceiling for the Scottish champions. Celtic can deliver thrilling individual results in the group stage – beating Barcelona proved that – and qualifying for the knock-out round is clearly a realistic annual target.
There is an unmistakable step up in class when the tournament enters a new year, though, and inevitably Celtic do not have the resources to cope with opposition as classy as the Serie A leaders. Juventus are unbeaten in home European games for over three years. Celtic never threatened that run.
Efe Ambrose did little to help the cause when he was disciplined yesterday for missing the team bus to training on the morning of the match. Instead he made his own way there in a taxi. Ambrose had a horrendous first leg and was little better last night, missing a fine chance with a header after he came on at half-time.
Celtic endured a long, hard night but it was not one of those when they were starved of possession. They had plenty of the ball, plenty of it in the Juventus half, too.
Biram Kayal, Charlie Mulgrew and Joe Ledley moved and shuttled and fed each other and when they could they got the ball forward to Kris Commons. But that's when Celtic hit a wall of black and white.
Lennon had been as positive as could realistically have been expected given the circumstances and had Gary Hooper and Georgios Samaras up front, but neither of them made a mark on the match. Juventus's back three of Andrea Barzagli, Luca Marrone and Leonardo Bonucci were too strong and too quick for them. With Federico Peluso and Simone Padoin ferrying back from the wing-back roles to offer even more protection Celtic faced an impenetrable line.
They opened Juventus up only once in each half. There was the Ambrose header, and earlier when Samaras put on a burst down the left and flashed the ball across the goalmouth. Hooper launched himself to connect with it but it was struck too hard and flew past him and away. Anything else amounted to half-chances. Buffon was required to make only one sharp save when Hooper's deflection changed the course of a low Commons shot, but the great Italian's reactions were a match for it. Juventus always looked comfortable and composed. They don't have the joint best defensive record in the Champions League without good reason.
They were content to mount periodic counter-attacks and scored with one of their first. Hooper had dropped deep – presumably already frustrated by his lack of involvement in the early play – but he was muscled out of possession by Barzagli and suddenly Juventus were in. Barzagli slipped a pass to Quagliarella and his low shot was parried by Fraser Forster but only into the path of the unmarked Alessandro Matri who rammed home an easy finish. Forster, so often excellent in the campaign and important again with some other big saves here, was at fault for the goal.
He saved well from Arturo Vidal and was equally impressive in pushing away a Quagliarella shot just after the break. By then Celtic were facing the same strikers with a different defence. Kelvin Wilson and Victor Wanyama had been the central pairing until half-time but Wanyama was replaced by Ambrose, who then moved to right-back when Adam Matthews pulled a hamstring.
It takes organisation and order to cope with Juventus and Lennon would have been anxious about having to reshuffle his pack. There was no great urgency from Juventus but, still, they opened Celtic up again midway through the second half. Pirlo floated a ball over Izaguirre for Matri, and suddenly Celtic were horribly exposed. He squared the ball into the goalmouth where Quagliarella scored with a tap-in.
There were no complaints from Celtic this time. The refereeing was not the factor it had been at Parkhead. Firat Aydinuas was unobtrusive. The Turk booked Peluso for an early foul on Matthews which was so mild it amounted to a kiss on the cheek compared to some of what was inflicted on the Celtic players in the first leg. Izaguire and Ledley were also booked but otherwise it was uneventful.
Juventus's wonderful new stadium pulsated, both sets of fans loud and colourful. Only out on the pitch did Celtic go quietly.
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