Juventus leaves Celtic’s Champions League dream in tatters

Story highlights

Juventus claims 3-0 win at Celtic in first leg of last-16 tie

Italian champion now in pole position to qualify for quarterfinal

Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off in Paris Saint-Germain's 2-1 win at Valencia

Ibrahimovic will miss the second leg on March 6

Juventus took a giant step towards the quarterfinals of the European Champions League following a crushing 3-0 win over Celtic.

Alesandro Matri’s early strike and further goals from Claudio Marchisio and Mirko Vucinic completed a perfect night’s work for the Italian champions.

There was also success for Paris Saint-Germain, which claimed a 2-1 away win at Valencia, although it must do without star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the second leg after he was shown a straight red card.

Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore had given the French club a two goal lead at the break, but Adil Rami’s late strike and Ibrahimovic’s dismissal means its all to play for in the French capital in three weeks time.

Lisbon Lions

While PSG might still have to sweat, no such problems are expected for Serie A leaders and two-time European Cup winners Juventus.

Dressed in all black and surrounded by the cauldron of Celtic Park, Juventus headed out to face one of the most intimidating atmospheres in European football.

With the majority of the 57,917 crowd clad in green and white bellowing out their support for the Scottish champion, it was clear that this night was something special.

Back in the knockout phase for the first time in five years, Celtic was dreaming of the glory days when it ruled the continent following its legendary cup final win of 1967.

The victory over the might of Inter Milan in Lisbon, led to the team, which was to become known as the ‘Lisbon Lions’, becoming the first non-Latin side to win the trophy.

Managed by the legendary Jock Stein, all of the players were born within a 30 mile radius of Glasgow.

On May 24 1967, Lisbon was overrun with the green and white of Celtic and not that of local club Sporting.

Goals from Tommy Gemmel and Stevie Chalmers secured victory over an Inter side which had won three of the four past editions of the competition.

“There is not a prouder man on God’s Earth than me at this moment,” said Stein following the triumph.

“Winning was important, but it was the way that we won that has filled me with satisfaction.

“We did it by playing football; pure, beautiful, inventive football. There was not a negative thought in our heads.”

That night in Lisbon is never far from memory whenever the words ‘Europe’ and ‘Celtic’ are mentioned in the same breath. They are synonomous.

The success of the past generation is a reminder of how Celtic became the first British club to win the competition, a fact which supporters are quick to point out at every opportunity.

But while it has dominated domestically in recent years, helped by the downfall of fierce rival Glasgow Rangers, success in Europe has been more difficult to achieve.

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Not since it lost to Porto in the 2003 UEFA Cup final had Celtic hit the European headlines, that was until this year and its shock victory over Barcelona.

A 2-1 home win against the La Liga champions helped Neil Lennon’s side qualify for the last-16 and a meeting with Juventus.

While the visitor appeared favorite on paper, Celtic’s home form in the Champions League has been nothing short of remarkable.

In its 23 matches before welcoming Juventus, Celtic had suffered just two defeats, while winning 15 and drawing six.

With the second leg in Turin on March 6 to come, the home side would have hoped to secure a result in a bid to keep the tie alive.

The atmosphere suggested a gladiatorial arena, the bloodcurdling noise of Celtic Park rose as the players emerged. This was Celtic’s time.

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Or perhaps not. Instead, it took Juventus just three minutes to silence one of European football’s most intimidating arenas.

On Sunday, Efe Ambrose was celebrating Nigeria’s victory in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations – but on a freezing February night in Glasgow he was left to rue a horrendous defensive error.

It was his mistake which allowed Federico Peluso’s long ball to release Alessandro Matri and the striker fired home, despite Kelvin Wilson trying to clear off the line.

The shock and horror was etched across the faces of the Celtic players, but slowly and surely, those emblazoned with the green and white began to show its famous spirit.

Kris Commons came agonizingly close to an equalizer when his overhead kick sailed just inches wide of the far post, while Ambrose should have netted with a free header just after the hour mark.

That miss was to be severely punished as Juventus wrapped the game up with 13 minutes remaining when Matri released Marchisio, who turned Scott Brown and slotted the ball home.

Worse was to come for Celtic with 83 minutes on the clock when Ambrose, who only returned from South Africa on Tuesday morning, gave away possession and Vucinic raced in to score.

“We need a miracle,” Celtic manager Lennon told ITV. “But it’s the harsh reality of Champions League football and some of my young players will learn a huge lesson tonight.

“I thought for 70-odd minutes, until the second goal, we were by far the better side – but you can’t give away goals like we gave away, sloppy.”

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On a day when wrestling was dropped from the Olympics, Lennon was frustrated with the way Juventus’ defenders manhandled his players at set-pieces.

Time and time again, defender Stephane Lichtsteiner was grappling with Gary Hooper and Scott Brown inside the penalty area, but nothing was forthcoming from referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco.

“I’d like to ask the referee, is the game different in Spain or Italy?” Lennon said.

“Every time one of my players tried to move he was held. He should have given a penalty on at least two occasions.”

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While that win all but secures Juventus’ place in the last eight, PSG faces a more difficult proposition following an infuriatingly frustrating second half performance.

In front of a watching David Beckham, who is hoping to make his debut within the next few weeks, PSG showed why they should be feared in this year’s competition.

Leading 2-0 thanks to goals from Lavezzi and Pastore, Carlo Ancelotti’s men missed several golden opportunities and could have easily scored four or five at the Mestalla.

Lavezzi, who has now scored in each of his past three Champions League games, should have had a hat-trick only to miss two simple chances.

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That wastefulness was punished in the final minute when Rami bundled home from close range to give the home side hope.

The tie then took another twist when Ibrahimovic was shown a straight red card for a controversial studs up challenge on Andres Guardado.

“Ibrahimovic did not deserve the red card. I don’t understand the decision,” Ancelotti told French Canal Plus television at full time.

“We played well and had chances to score more goals. It was a good team performance, but this was just the first leg. There is still the return to come.”