Juventus 2 Celtic 0
Celtic’s Champions League journey ended at the last-16 stage last night after a 5-0 aggregate defeat by Juventus after goals from Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella separated the sides in rain-lashed Turin.
The Serie A leaders took what turned out to be an unassailable three-goal lead from the first leg into the game and any feint hopes of a comeback ended in the 24th minute when Matri opened the scoring from close range.
Quagliarella notched the second in the 65th minute as the spirited Parkhead men were again punished heavily for a lack of concentration.
However, in the final analysis, Celtic can only look at their European campaign in a positive light.
The Hoops won two qualifiers against HJK Helsinki and Helsingborg, before finishing second in Group G to Barcelona, whom they famously beat at Celtic Park, at the expense of Benfica and Spartak Moscow.
Lennon will have another crack at it next year and although they will have to negotiate three qualifiers, his players will be all the better for this season’s continental experiences.
The noise inside the ultra-modern Juventus stadium in the early stages was ear-splitting at times but Celtic did not appear intimidated.
With Gary Hooper and Samaras in attack, supported by Commons through the centre, the visitors edged forward with some confidence looking for the first goal which was needed to give them any sort of hope.
In the 21st minute the Scottish champions came close to getting the opener when Commons capitalised on slack play to set up Joe Ledley, whose drive from 25 yards whistled just past Gianluigi Buffon’s left-hand post.
However, three minutes later any remote chance of a comeback disappeared when Juventus took the lead, after Hooper had lost possession.
When Quagliarella’s low drive from 16 yards was parried by Forster, Matri was first to the rebound to knock the ball into the net.
The Parkhead side, stunned as they were, kept pushing forward and three minutes later Commons’ shot from 25 yards took a deflection off Hooper and had Buffon in trouble — but the veteran goalkeeper reacted sharply to push the ball behind for a corner, which came to nothing.
After Vidal had curled a shot over the bar to end a Juve break, Hooper was only inches away from getting a toe to Samaras’ cut-back after the big Greece striker had powered his way to the byline.
Efe Ambrose replaced Victor Wanyama for the start of the second half and within six minutes right-back Adam Matthews was carried off on a stretcher after appearing to injure his hamstring, his place taken by James Forrest.
In between that, Forster made a good save from Quagliarella and as the game stretched it promised more goals at both ends.
But only the hosts obliged.
Pirlo’s pass found the tireless Vidal breaking past Izaguirre and when he squared to Quagliarella the Juve striker tapped into an empty net.
It became a matter of playing out time for both sides — although Samaras fired over from the edge of the box with eight minutes remaining when a goal might have been just reward for their efforts over the two games.
JUVENTUS: Buffon, Barzagli, Marrone, Bonucci, Padoin, Vidal (Isla 67), Pirlo (Giaccherini 69), Pogba, Peluso (Asamoah 59),Quagliarella, Matri.
CELTIC: Forster, Matthews (Forrest 52), Wilson, Kayal, Izaguirre, Commons (Nouioui 73), Wanyama (Ambrose 46), Ledley, Mulgrew, Samaras, Hooper.
Referee: Firat Aydinus (Turkey).
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