Juventus beats Celtic 2-0 to reach Champions League quarters
TURIN, Italy — Juventus avoided any slip-ups against Celtic, finishing off the Scottish team with a 2-0 win Wednesday to seal a spot in the Champions League quarterfinals 5-0 on aggregate.
Holding a 3-0 lead from the away leg, Juventus withstood some early pressure from Celtic before Alessandro Matri essentially clinched the series when he put the Italian side ahead in the 24th minute.
Celtic’s best chance came minutes later but Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon pulled off a one-handed stop to keep out Kris Commons’ deflected effort.
Fabio Quagliarella doubled Juve’s lead in the 65th minute by slotting into an empty net from close range after being unselfishly set up by Arturo Vidal.
It is the first time Juventus has reached the quarterfinals since it was demoted to Serie B in the 2006 match-fixing scandal.
“Celtic is a great squad, we were very focused, very prepared. We knew that this is a team that if you don’t study well, can hurt you,” Juventus coach Antonio Conte said. “To have managed to return to the top eight of football after so many years fills us — staff, players and whole club — with pride and enthusiasm.”
Juventus can start thinking about a possible Champions League and Serie A double, as it leads the Italian league by six points.
“Now we’re in the really intense part of the season, where you can’t afford to make a mistake,” Conte added. “We have to be very good, very focused in training as well as in the matches. We know we can get a lot of happiness out of this season, but it will be very difficult.”
In Wednesday’s other match, Paris Saint-Germainh drew 1-1 against Valencia to qualify for the last eight 3-2 on aggregate.
Juventus extended its unbeaten streak in Europe to 18 matches, having lost just one in its last 30 — including qualifying. The Italian club has not conceded a goal in its last five.
Like in the first leg, Celtic created plenty of chances but failed to take advantage, while the Italian team was ruthlessly efficient at the other end.
“The difference is quality in the final third,” Celtic coach Neil Lennon said. “We had good chances again tonight and we didn’t take them. We played really good football and we missed really good chances to get back into the game. Quality is the real difference, quality counts and that was what made the difference over the two games.”
It is the end of an impressive European campaign for Celtic, which memorably beat Barcelona in the group stages as well as winning away at Spartak Moscow.
“These young players have achieved so much this campaign,” Lennon added. “I hope they learn from it but we won’t know until we come into the competition again.
“It’s going to be very difficult to keep these players. Some want to progress their careers maybe outside Scotland and we understand that. We’ve just come off the back of an unbelievable experience in the Champions League. The handicap we have is we’re 100 million pounds behind the other teams in the Champions League.”
With the series all but decided already, Juventus rested midfielders Stephan Lichtsteiner and Claudio Marchisio, who were both one booking away from a suspension, while defender Giorgio Chiellini and striker Mirko Vucinic were kept on the bench.
Celtic created a lot of pressure in the opening stages but failed to trouble Buffon. The closest it went was in the 21st minute when a fierce, long-range shot by Joe Ledley flew just past the top right corner.
Juventus took the lead just three minutes later. Andrea Barzagli robbed Gary Hooper in midfield and raced forwards before threading it through for Quagliarella. His effort was parried by Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster but Matri was on hand to tap in the rebound for his fifth goal in nine games in 2013.
Celtic almost leveled immediately when Commons’ effort was deflected by Hooper, but Buffon pulled off a good reaction save.
Juventus was in complete control and could have extended its lead but Arturo Vidal spooned his shot over the bar from the edge of the area.
Celtic had one of its best chances of the match 10 minutes from halftime when Giorgos Samaras fired just past the right upright. Hooper slid in but was millimeters away from connecting to tap it into an empty net.
Halftime substitute Efe Ambrose went close again for Celtic but his header from Charlie Mulgrew’s corner bounced down and over the crossbar.
Juventus doubled its lead shortly after. Vidal controlled a delightful long pass from Andrea Pirlo on his chest before rolling the ball across for a completely unmarked Quagliarella to tap into an empty net from three yards out.
With Vidal also a booking away from a suspension, the midfielder was immediately substituted. Key playmaker Pirlo followed him two minutes later.
Get the hottest sports news straight into your inbox
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.