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Juventus progress to quarters after 2-0 (5-0 agg.) win vs. Celtic
Juventus came and conquered. They downed Celtic 2-0 in Turin in their Champions League round of sixteen second leg, winning the tie 5-0 on aggregate. Their organized back line and effective countering gave them a substantial lead heading into Wednesday night, and more of the same occurred in the return leg.
From the start, Celtic came out with the same strategy they employed back in Glasgow, come at Juve with a fast paced, direct attack with plenty of shots on Gianluigi Buffon. It worked to a degree as they had 15 shots (five hit the target) with 56% of the possession, but were once again foiled by the Bianconeri. They were ready for what came at them and despite resting key players like Claudio Marchisio and Giorgio Chiellini, the home side’s defence performed admirably. Having a comfortable lead like Juventus did can sometimes make players, especially defenders, complacent. Buffon and company didn’t let that happen. Italy’s number one made saves when called upon, Andrea Barzagli, manager Antonio Conte’s smartest selection on the night, was crucial to the victory. He continually switched to opposite sides of the pitch to stop the Bhoys’ front men, which reduced their threat. Luca Marrone and Leonardo Bonucci also did their jobs properly, but Barzagli was the key man. In fact, it was his interception that led to Alessandro Matri’s goal in the 24th minute.
However, there was one negative for the hosts. Whenever any midfielders had the ball in the defensive third, they’d sometimes give away possession cheaply when they had a simple pass to either wingback (depending on which flank the ball was on) or could’ve cleared it up the pitch. It could be due to the scoreline as this was kept to a minimum in February’s match-up, but had it been a closer encounter, someone from Celtic could’ve capitalized on those mistakes.
That being said, the team was almost flawless. Even when playmaker Andrea Pirlo was (again) man marked tightly, others stepped up. Arturo Vidal, for example, made the run that tricked Emilio Izaguirre, drawing in the two Hoops’ centre backs, which opened up space for Fabio Quagliarella for him to score. Paul Pogba also came deeper to help out Pirlo and help set up the play for the second tally of the game.
As for Celtic, there were positives. They seemed to be slightly better at creating opportunities. In fact, they could’ve scored twice if the runs onto the posts were timed perfectly. Gary Hooper narrowly missed an empty net tap-in in the first half, but his slide was timed too late. As for individual performances, Victor Wanyama was solid yet again. Surely a big club will come calling for the Kenyan in the summer time. Suddenly the £25 million price tag that manager Neil Lennon gave him isn’t so hefty anymore.
Juventus will be pleased with their display and the result on aggregate, as they should. They’re through to the last eight, and with their incredible defensive showings, they could be a surprise semi finalist. Heck, they’re 9-1 to actually win the Champions League title, not bad odds for a side who were languishing in seventh in Serie A as recently as two seasons ago.