The build-up to this match did not suggest Juventus would have any troubles seeing off Celtic to advance to the quarter finals of the Champions League – and it soon proved that even the most sceptic and nervous of Juve fans had little to fear from this game.
While Celtic looked determined from the get-go, the patient game-plan from the first leg in Glasgow was maintained by Conte, and by the time Matri scored the opener to put the Bianconeri up 4-0 on aggregate, the tie was definitively dead and buried.
MATCH ANALYSIS by Lars Aabjerg Pedersen
The game started with a bit of nerves, Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba both making a few sloppy passes eagerly intercepted by a Celtic side that was clearly in Turin to restore some of the pride that was lost in the first leg at Parkhead.
Much like in that first leg, though, the Bhoys were full of energy, while Conte’s men sat back and broke down the opposition before any real danger came of it. The first 20 minutes ticked away with Celtic the more aggressive side but with little to show for it in terms of scoring opportunities. At the other end, Juve didn’t do much either; a semi-scoffed shot from very long range by Fabio Quagliarella and some trickery from Pogba leading to naught being the only incidents of note.
And then it happened. Andrea Barzagli (the man, the hero, the legend) snatched the ball from Hooper, played it on to Quagliarella, whose shot Celtic ‘keeper Forster was only able to parry straight into the path of Alessandro Matri, the striker duly converting the easiest of tap-ins.
While the Glaswegians were disheartened by that final nail in their CL coffin, Gianluigi Buffon still had to come up with a miraculous save minutes later, as a shot from Kris Commons took a wicked deflection, prompting a sensational reaction from the Juve no. 1.
Vidal skied a shot after being played into a promising position from Quagliarella, while Samaras, one of few Celtic players to look something of a threat on the night, almost set up Hooper for a tap-in, but the ball went wide of the far post. Arturo Vidal had another good opportunity to shoot in the 43rd minute, but his effort was rather weak.
The first half finished with a Celtic corner amounting to nothing, and the visitors went to get their tea and oranges (or whatever it is one really enjoys at half time these days) having put in a great deal of work to little avail. Juventus, on the other hand, could be pleased with having given another exhibition of very solid defending, taking the opportunity when it arrived.
After the break, the Bianconeri seemed very much on top, and while the Scots still had their fair share of possession, they were closed down long before danger materialised, not least thanks to Andrea Barzagli who seemed to be always in the right position to stifle any threat.
In the 58th minute, Federico Peluso (who had controlled the left flank authoritatively until then) made way for Asamoah in a like-for-like substitution. Meanwhile, Matri and Quagliarella looked very bright up top and did very well both linking up and creating opportunities for each other. Fabio Quagliarella eventually got his goal too, as a glorious Pirlo ball found Arturo Vidal running in behind the Celtic defence, the Chilean coolly squaring it for Quags to put it in the empty net.
That was to be Vidal’s final contribution, as he was subbed off for Mauricio Isla immediately after that play. Soon after, Andrea Pirlo made way for Giaccherini so as to allow the former a bit of a rest too. Very rarely does Conte keep his front duo intact during 90 minutes, which speaks volumes of both the excellent play of Quagliarella and Matri and the priorities of Conte in a tie that was all but over.
Indeed the last 20 minutes were reminiscent of a summer friendly with Celtic half-heartedly seeking some redemption trying to at least get a goal, while Conte’s men stood firm and made sure not to risk anything, happy to keep yet another clean sheet – the fifth consecutive in this competition!
The Scottish fans, however, deserve a mention for their continued chanting and cheering of their heroes even at 5-0 down, keeping the atmosphere glowing even as a fair few Juventus tifosi saved their energy for the celebration at the full time whistle.
When it came, the Juventus Stadium erupted as Paolo Belli’s club anthem once again provided the soundtrack to a great result for the Bianconeri, marking their deserved progression to the last eight of Europe’s finest club competition for the first time in seven years.
LE PAGELLE by Lars Aabjerg Pedersen
Buffon 7.0 - While San Gigi was not too troubled on the night, his save on that that deflected shot in the first half goes to show how important the current Captain is to this team. Had a bit of a scare late on from a long-range shot that ricocheted off his chest, but was, on the whole, impeccable.
Barzagli 8.5 - This was not the most difficult of games, but Big Andrea simply oozes class and coolness. I have made my feelings for this man clear on many occasions, and tonight was perhaps the perfect example of why I hold him in such high esteem. A perfect performance in defence, enhanced further by his part in the first goal. Immense. My Man of the Match.
Marrone 6.5 - Had a good game along with the rest of the defence, an important game for the youngster to get under his belt, as ever repaying the trust shown towards him by Conte.
Bonucci 6.5 - A very solid performance from Leo, as we have come to expect. Did what was needed, nothing more, nothing less.
Padoin 6.0 - Did well on the right flank without being overly impressive. The Padoin is the Padoin is the Padoin.
Vidal 6.5 - A mixed bag from the Chilean. While he battled on as usual, a few passes and finishes were lacking in quality. Did very well to assist Quagliarella for the second goal. Possibly a bit worried about the yellow card he was carrying.
Isla S.V - Came on as the game petered out, getting some playing time in his legs, held his own without being noteworthy.
Pirlo 6.5 - The Maestro played well as usual, perhaps deserving a higher rating, but we’ll save that for more crucial encounters in order to keep Andrea on his toes (and off the wine!) in the meantime, we stroke our collective beards in appreciation of that absolutely gorgeous ball for Vidal in the build-up to the second goal…
Giaccherini S.V - See Isla above.
Pogba 7.0 - Did very well distributing in midfield as well as tracking back when necessary. To paraphrase a legendary Danish commentator (on Laudrup at the same age) “he is merely 19 years old, but he already plays like a tested and proven giant of the game”.
Peluso 6.0 - Definitely improved from his first, shaky outing against Sampdoria back in January (cursed be its name!), but still very much a mixed pleasure. Did well on numerous occasions at both ends, but needs to improve his passing and positioning at times. Minus .5 for receiving a very silly yellow card early on in a bid to prove Neil Lennon’s delusions right.
Asamoah S.V. - See Isla and Giaccherini above.
Matri 7.0 - Very encouraging display by the resurging striker, linked up well with Quagliarella and the midfield, his goal only underlining what he is capable of when on song. Long may it last!
Quagliarella 7.0 - Much like Matri, he did exactly what he was supposed to in this game, both contributing to play and being in the right position at the right time. If only our strikers clicked like that in the league…
Conte 9.0 - It was great to see Conte keep his cool and let Celtic do much the same job as they did in Glasgow; press forward with little actual threat. The Mister nailed these two games, letting Celtic tire themselves out, as well as managing the squad with a view to the remainder of the season. Went about this tie exactly as he should, and in the process perhaps even confused a few potential opposition coaches by applying this hitherto unseen pragmatism.
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP by Lars Aabjerg Pedersen
While the figures speak for themselves, Celtic was more of a tricky draw than met the eye. The fact that the Scots were dispatched of with such relative ease is indicative of Conte and the team’s ability to adapt to European competition in an emphatic fashion, a feat e.g. Borussia Dortmund needed two attempts to achieve – and one that Manchester City have not yet reached, just to put things into a bit of perspective.
Conte’s new-found pragmatism and matter-of-fact way of dealing with the strengths and weaknesses of opposing teams bodes very well for Juve’s future chances in this competition, as does the clinical finishing that has otherwise been lacking, but seems to appear when most needed.
All is possible for this team, and while further advancement in this tournament will depend heavily on the draw for the quarterfinals, only a fool would look to Juventus as a dream opponent…
The stats speak for themselves, both defensively and offensively (do look them up, I promise it is a treat!), but the crucial element is that Conte has this team believing that through work, work, work and that touch of brilliance, the sky is the limit. If there is such a thing at all!
ANTONIO CONTE IL NOSTRO CAPITANO!
Juventus 2-0 Celtic – All Goals and full Highlights Video