Changed Juve ease past Celtic to reach quarters

Posted by Mina Rzouki

Celtic required a mini miracle, Juventus needed to remain concentrated. In the end, the Serie A leaders won 2-0 to send the SPL's best team packing. The Cinderella story might have came to an end for the away side, but for Juventus, they're living a fairy tale of their very own.

- Muirhead: What a campaign, let's do it again
- Lennon: Juventus a class above


It's been seven long years since Juventus qualified for the quarter-finals of Europe's elite competition. In those years, the Old Lady suffered the humiliation of Calciopoli, demotion to Serie B and two seventh-place finishes just prior to the arrival of Antonio Conte. Under their former captain, they're now living the dream. Undefeated in the league last year, they are now undefeated in Europe, too. Five wins and three draws, Juventus have scored 17 in 720 minutes, conceding only four and managing five clean sheets.

Against Celtic in the second leg, it wasn't the best Juventus. It was a side looking to do the bare minimum in the hopes they could walk away with a positive result without expending too much energy. Those on a yellow card, except for Arturo Vidal, were duly left out whilst Conte concentrated on handing chances to those who have not seen much Champions League action.

The first half started in much the same way it did in Glasgow - with Celtic on the front foot. The Bhoys boasted 61% possession and pushed forward to provoke imprecision from the Bianconeri, but they conceded a goal cheaply despite being the side looking the more likely to score.

With their forwards pressing high up the pitch to pressure the Juventus back line, the Italians were consistently fighting to head the ball away and hack it clear. With so much pressure applied, the Old Lady was guilty of poor clearances and of poor passes that hindered them from starting attacking movements of their own. Meanwhile, they had to depend on an alert Gigi Buffon to make a sensational save to deny Kris Commons' deflected shot.

When Juventus saw the opportunity to push up, they did so with speed in hopes of exploiting the space Celtic had left behind. Fabio Quagliarella as well as Paul Pogba proved masterful on the ball as their quick feet allowed them to overcome markers and create chances. Every turn Pogba made on the ball and every chance Quagliarella had to run at the defenders provided excitement for the home fans.

Celtic did well to limit the forward thrusts of Juve's wing-backs as they double-marked the players, but centrally, they struggled to contain the attackers. However, it was another individual error that led to the Juventus goal to demonstrate the opportunistic nature of this Italian side.

Andrea Barzagli intelligently robbed Gary Hooper of the ball before passing it to Quagliarella to score. The forward shot only to see Fraser Forster palm it away, but Alessandro Matri was on hand to pounce on the loose ball and score the home side's opener.

Whilst Matri impressed with his striker's instinct, it was Barzagli who did all the hard work as well as impressing throughout the match. His capability to read the game allowed him to make those vital interceptions, whilst his outstanding ability to use his body to block the ball proved his value to the side and ensured another clean sheet.

In the second half, Celtic failed to match the energy levels from the start of the match. They adopted a more cautious approach allowing Juventus to venture up and create more opportunities. And of course, it was Andrea Pirlo's magnificent pass that beat the Celtic defence. Catching Vidal making a run from midfield, a perfectly weighted pass was delivered. The Chilean latched on before rolling the ball to Quagliarella, who secured another European goal.

Again, Juventus knew how to punish Celtic and the second goal proved too much for a Scottish side that now looked dejected. Juventus remained defensively disciplined despite the score-line and were well organised as they blocked all passages Celtic may have used to penetrate. Leonardo Bonucci headed chances away, Luca Marrone took the initiative to step forward and tackle whilst Barzagli mopped up what was necessary.

Whether it were the wonderful tackles of Federico Peluso or the turns of Pogba, Juventus did what was necessary to secure the win and preserve their energy for the important clash against Catania on the weekend.

Meanwhile, Celtic gave their best but any errors were perfectly exploited by an Italian side that has waited many years to partake in the latter stages of this elite competition.

Despite all the animosity displayed on the pitch in the first leg, coupled with the snide comments exchanged by the coaches, it was indeed lovely to see the good behaviour of the home and away fans as they applauded one another, sang songs and cheered on their respective sides. Celtic's journey was a memorable one, but the best team progressed.

ESPN Conversations